UPDATED: 3/12/2020 6:03 P.M. ET
GO HERE FOR USBC'S RELEASE ANNOUNCING THAT THE USBC MASTERS AND USBC CONVENTION HAVE BEEN POSTPONED, AND THAT THE STARTING DATE FOR THE USBC OPEN CHAMPIONSHIPS AND WOMEN'S CHAMPIONSHIPS HAS BEEN MOVED TO MAY 1.
SEE BELOW FOR OUR EARLIER REPORTING ON THE IMPACT OF CORONAVIRUS ON THE BOWLING INDUSTRY . . .
As concerns about coronavirus were amplified Monday by the largest selloff the U.S. stock market has seen since the 2008 financial crisis, news that artists such as Peal Jam, Madonna and Miley Cyrus had postponed their upcoming tours, and reports that episodes of game shows Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy would be taped without studio audiences "indefinitely," entities within the bowling industry also began to issue statements about precautions they are taking in response to the health crisis.
On Thursday, the United States Bowling Congress announced that the Intercollegiate Team and Singles Sectionals set to get underway on March 13 had been postponed indefinitely. Get that announcement here: https://www.bowlersjournal.com/intercollegiate-singles-and-team-sectionals-postponed-indefinitely/
Previously, on March 6, USBC had issued the following statement: "USBC is continuing to monitor the situation and will follow the direction of public health officials. At this time, all our events and schedules remain. USBC is working with our host venues to prepare, including additional sanitization stations within the venues. USBC relies on expert directives from public health regulators and will continue to follow their instructions as they evolve. We encourage concerned participants to check the CDC website (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html) for updates."
The 2020 USBC Open Championships is set to kick off on March 21 at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno. The event brought 10,440 teams to Las Vegas last year.
USBC had issued the following expanded coronavirus guidance for sectionals players and coaches prior to announcing the postponement of the events:
"Neither the NCAA COVID-19 advisory panel, made up of leading public health and infectious disease experts in America, nor the CDC or local health officials have advised against holding sporting events. In the event circumstances change, we will make decisions accordingly. USBC also is receiving athlete safety updates from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC).
USBC Collegiate member schools and athletes also should consult with their own campus health leadership and follow any school-specific recommendation. USBC respects that decisions and policy related to travel and event participation may be different for each school and individual athlete. USBC will refund entry fees for any school or athlete who chooses to withdraw from these events.
We encourage concerned participants to check the CDC website for the latest information."
By Wednesday night, at least one school had cancelled their bowling program's plans to travel to sectionals, as the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's chancellor, Mark A. Mone, announced in a statement posted to the school's dedicated coronavirus updates page that, "All upcoming University-sponsored travel for students is being cancelled through the end of the semester. This includes university-sponsored spring break trips, but does not include NCAA athletics, which will be subject to guidelines established by the Horizon League and the NCAA."
UW-Milwaukee bowler Matt Hibbard, who finished runner-up in the Intercollegiate Singles Championships last year, expressed his disappointment in a Facebook post Wednesday evening.
"I sit here on the verge of tears as I say neither I nor the team will be allowed to bowl sectionals this year," he wrote. "It crushes me to know that I will have most likely bowled my last team sectionals event, as there is a good chance I graduate early next year. Along those lines as well, I will not be able to chase my dream of winning the singles title this year after coming so close last year. I looked for every loophole, contacted all the people I could think of and wasn’t able to come up with a way to make this happen."
Within the broader sporting world, the NCAA announced Wednesday that all March Madness games would be played without fans in attendance due to coronavirus.
Pat Forde reported for Sports Illustrated that, "The near-last-minute disruption presents an extraordinary logistical challenge to the NCAA and its broadcast partners, CBS and Turner Sports, and stands as the most significant disruption in the 81-year history of an event that has become a staple of American sporting culture. But the ongoing national health crisis left the NCAA with little option."
The NCAA's fan restriction extends also to its Division 1 women's basketball tournament. "Only essential staff and limited family" will be permitted to attend, NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement.
On Wednesday night, the National Basketball Association announced the suspension of its 2020 season until further notice after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus. On Thursday, college basketball's Big Ten Tournament was cancelled.
The PBA Tour, for its part, is set to produce five consecutive nights of television shows on FS1 starting March 15 from WSOB XI, which currently is underway at South Point Bowling Plaza in Las Vegas. PBA CEO Colie Edison said that, "The Storm World Series of Bowling in Las Vegas will go on as planned. We are taking extra precautions to ensure the health and safety of our athletes and fans. We will continue to monitor the situation and will provide updates if anything changes. We thank all of our loyal fans for their continued support of the PBA."
Bowling proprietors find themselves on the front lines of grappling with the impact coronavirus, which was declared a "pandemic" by the World Health organization on Wednesday, may have on their bottom lines and to the safety of employees and customers alike, as they are in the social gathering business while the public is being encouraged to protect themselves through "social distancing."
Pat Ciniello, CEO of Bowland Centers in Southwest Florida, said, "Safety is our number-one priority everyday we open for business. Safety for our guests and our employees. With that in mind, all Bowland and HeadPinz Entertainment Centers are taking extra steps to ensure our cleaning efforts are taken up a few notches. So please don’t be alarmed if you see our staff wiping down bowling balls, arcade games, bathroom surfaces or servers wearing sanitary gloves."
Ciniello added that, "Everyday seems to bring new revelations about the virus. Be assured, our team is paying attention and doing our best to stay on top of any changes. If you have any questions about our efforts, please ask to speak with a manager."
Pinheads Entertainment Center in the Indianapolis suburb of Fishers, Ind., issued the following statement Tuesday:
"The safety and security of our Guests and Team Members is of paramount importance to us. We have been in touch with The Hamilton County Health Department in order to stay on top of the evolving Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. The Health Department has advised us on “best practices” in addition to the recommendations from CDC.
We want all our Guests and Team members to have the utmost confidence when visiting our facility. To help the situation, we have enhanced our already strict cleaning procedures.
Facility Sanitation: We have invested more time and money for “additional sanitation measures” to help ensure facility cleanliness. Our team is using sanitization chemicals on bowling balls, couches, chairs, tables, touch screens, door handles, restrooms, and bowling shoes. This is being done with higher frequency per day.
In the arcade; games, handles, knobs, buttons, and chairs are being sanitized multiple times per day. As always, 3D glasses are being sanitized after each use.
We also have hand sanitizer in 5 high traffic areas in the facility and extra hand soap in stock due to increased use by our guests as of late.
Rest assured we are monitoring this situation closely and will continue to maintain flexibility with this evolving situation. We will maintain communications with the HC Board of Health, as well as State and Local Governments. Our operation will continue to follow their recommendations.
Thank you for making us one of the Top Hospitality Businesses in the Indy Area.
Pinheads Entertainment Center
PS - Despite all of our actions. We also must acknowledge that this activity is not a guarantee that someone cannot transmit germs etc, so if you do not feel comfortable, we urge you stay home."
Former Bowling Proprietors' Association of America President John LaSpina, President of Maple Family Centers with four locations in New York and one in Florida, said, "Since we shake lots of hands in a day, we have curtailed that with humor and an extended elbow." He also underscored efforts at his centers to keep hand sanitizer at the ready, and said, "We have washed down areas that people are prone to touch... all tables, computer touch screens, reset buttons, counters, bathrooms, etc."
LaSpina also addressed the potential economic impact a global health concern such as this may have on places where people gather.
"I share everyone’s concern for places where people gather to have fun," he said. "We all may face the brunt of this. We know a CEO of a large (140 unit) clothing chain who has the same fear."
Bowling proprietors should "make a disaster plan," LaSpina advised. "If this is out of control, you need to have the ‘what if’ scenario... layoffs, curtailed hours of operation, visible preparation to keep things clean."
CNN reported Tuesday that the worldwide coronavirus death toll had surpassed 4,000, with 113,000 people infected throughout the world. Italy's population of 60 million people continued to be "on lockdown," with stringent travel restrictions in place, school closures and public events banned. MSNBC reported Tuesday that the death toll in Italy had risen to 691.
Amid the uncertainty and anxiety provoked by the health crisis, LaSpina advises that sometimes the simplest measures have the greatest benefit.
"We tell all to listen to your mother: Wash your hands!" he said.