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Coronavirus: D-backs weigh in as leagues close locker room access

Fans line up outside of Chase Field before the MLB game between the Boston Red Sox and the Arizona Diamondbacks on April 05, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Fears over the global spread of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, have prompted major professional sports leagues in North America to close locker rooms and clubhouses to the media.

“After consultation with infectious disease and public health experts, and given the issues that can be associated with close contact in pre- and post-game settings, all team locker rooms and clubhouses will be open only to players and essential employees of teams and team facilities until further notice,” a joint statement from MLB, the NHL, NBA and MLS said.

The change is slated to take place starting on Tuesday. Players are still expected to be made available to media outside the confines of locker rooms and facilities.

The Diamondbacks will be among the local teams to immediately implement the new joint protocol as spring training is well underway. The Phoenix Suns and Arizona Coyotes are also those with immediate relevance to the locker room closures.

“This is a very real thing that’s circulating the globe, and we have to be mindful of it and we have to be careful,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said Monday. “And we have responsibilities just like everybody else to be aware of the risks and the potential for the spread. And I’m not just worried for us, I’m worried for the fans, too.

“So as we’re interacting with the fans, who’s to say that we wouldn’t be transmitting something between fans? So it’s a tough needle to thread because we want to connect with our fans, they deserve that connection with us, we connect with the community whenever we can. But I think we have to start thinking of some mindful solutions.”

D-backs relief pitcher Andrew Chafin was dismissive Monday of fears about coronavirus and said he was not hesitant to sign autographs or shake hands.

“I ain’t worried about it. I’ll go in and wash my hands afterwards,” he said. “We had a meeting the other day and they were saying something about how there’s been — I don’t know if I got this right — but like 18,000 deaths because of the flu, and we’re worried about 30 [in the U.S.] from the coronavirus. It’s the same thing, basically. I think the media overplayed it a little bit.”

Other leagues around the world have played games in empty stadiums due to coronavirus fears, and a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Monday said that the NBA is weighing preventative measures, including the possibility of playing games without fans.

“I think every player in here thrives off of the cheering, the booing, just the environment, the intensity from the crowd,” Chafin said. “You take that away, it’s going to completely change the feel of the game. It’s going to feel like a backfield game in the spring. But if it comes to that, we’ll adapt and we’ll do the best we can to go out and perform the best we can.”

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 58,000 have so far recovered.

More than 113,000 people worldwide have tested positive for the disease and over 3,900 people with the virus have died, most of them in China. More than 62,000 people have already recovered. The virus has infected 600 people in the United States — including the director of the agency that runs the airports in New York and New Jersey — and at least 26 have died, most in Washington state.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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