NBA, MLB, NHL and MLS to Close Locker Rooms and Clubhouses to Protect Players from Coronavirus

News media and any non-essential personnel will now be temporarily barred from entering the locker rooms of athletes from four major professional sports leagues in the United States, all in a bid to protect players from the growing threat of coronavirus.

In a rare joint statement released on Monday, the MLB, MLS, NBA, and NHL announced the restrictions on news organizations after meeting with disease and health specialists as the virus continues to spread across the country.

“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,” the statement read, in part.

Media access to players will still be available from designated locations outside of the locker room and clubhouse setting, the leagues announced.

“These temporary changes will be effective beginning with [Tuesday’s] games and practices,” the statement continued. “We will continue to closely monitor this situation and take any further steps necessary to maintain a safe and welcoming environment.”

According to the Associated Press, media interviews with NBA players will continue, but there will be a 6- to 8-foot gap in place between reporters and players.

The NBA has also discussed the possibility of playing future games this season without fans in attendance.

“Obviously I would be very disappointed at not having the fans, ’cause that’s what I play for,” LeBron James told reporters this week of the possibility. “I play for my family; I play for my fans.”

While the virus has proven deadly, it is especially dangerous for people over the age of 60, Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said this week. Most people exposed to the virus may only experience mild symptoms.

As of Monday, there have been 788 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. and 28 deaths. The number of cases went up quickly over the last few days, with the majority occurring in Washington state, California and New York, PEOPLE reported.

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