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Washington Governor Jay Inslee restricts public gatherings, NCAA tournament coming

Spokane is set to host the first and second round of the NCAA tournament next week.

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee addresses the press during a visit by Vice President Mike Pence to discuss concerns over the coronavirus, COVID-19, on March 5, 2020 at Camp Murray adjacent to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. They are joined by Dr. Debbi Birx, White House Coronavirus Coordinator, and members of Washington state’s congressional delegation, federal, state and local officials. Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images

UPDATE: March 11, 4:40 p.m. The NCAA Tournament will not have fans anywhere.

Covid-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, is forcing local governments to make tough decisions, and it looks like the state of Washington might end up having an impact on the NCAA tournament coming to Spokane next Thursday and Saturday.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee will propose a ban on all public gatherings of more than 250 people. That would include the first and second round of the NCAA tournament, scheduled to be hosted at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.

It’s possible the games could be played in front of empty stands, with no fans, bands, timeout entertainment, or any of the other atmosphere for which March Madness is known. And it might look weird, but there is precedent as a Champions League soccer match today was played in front of the teams and camera crews only.

With their win tonight over Saint Mary’s in the West Coast Conference final, we likely know one of the teams involved would be the Gonzaga Bulldogs as the No. 1 seed in the West region. Spokane’s Memorial Arena is just two miles from Gonzaga’s campus.

We’ll have more on this story as it develops.