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Coronavirus: Fans are still allowed at many sporting events. But are they showing up?

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The scene from Honda Center on March 10 as the Ducks hosted the Ottawa Senators.
(Helene Elliott / Los Angeles Times)

Coronavirus fears have caused some sports leagues and teams around the world to take the precautionary steps of canceling games or holding their events with no spectators in attendance.

None of the major professional leagues in the U.S. have taken such measures at this point, so fans have been free to watch those events in person if they so choose.

But are they choosing to do so? Let’s check out the crowd sizes for the local teams that played Tuesday night.

The Lakers announced a sellout crowd for their game against the Brooklyn Nets. Times reporter Tania Ganguli noted that “although a few more empty seats than normal dotted the arena, fans still packed Staples Center.”

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But that wasn’t the case at Honda Center, where the Ducks hosted the Ottawa Senators. The team announced a crowd of 15,044, which is only slightly below its season average of 15,837. But as Times columnist Helene Elliott noted, that total is based on tickets distributed and doesn’t necessarily reflect the number of people who showed up.

“Appears to be a lot fewer bodies in the building than that,” Elliott tweeted.

The Clippers played the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco, where events such as the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and symphony performances have already been canceled because of the COVID-19 outbreak. City supervisor Aaron Peskin told the Mission Local that he had asked Warriors president Rick Welts that the team voluntarily cancel games, but Tuesday’s contest went on as planned. Welts did not return calls to the Mission Local regarding the situation.

Signs posted on the Chase Center door over the weekend warned fans they were entering at their own risk, and Times reporter Andrew Greif said it looked like many ticket-holders decided to stay away Tuesday night.

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“Thousands of black T-shirts draped over the arena’s seats as part of a giveaway sat unclaimed amid a crowd that was announced as a sellout but, in reality, was far more sparse,” Greif wrote.

On Wednesday morning, San Francisco mayor London Breed announced it was prohibiting the gatherings of more than 1,000 people, a rule that would affect Warriors’ home games starting Thursday night against the Brooklyn Nets. The Giants announced soon after that their March 24 exhibition against the Oakland Athletics will not take place as scheduled at Oracle Park, but the team is working with

The four major sports leagues have already taken certain precautions concerning the coronavirus, including a joint announcement Monday that all team locker rooms and clubhouses will be open only to players and essential team employees “until further notice.” NBA officials have warned teams that games without fans are a possibility, and a conference call between the league and team owners is scheduled for Wednesday.

On Monday, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, called for “social distancing,” a term officials use to describe keeping people away from crowded areas in hopes of dramatically reducing the spread of an infectious disease. UCLA and USC are among the schools that have barred spectators from home athletic events for the near future.

So it is still a distinct possibility that local pro teams might have to face scenes like this one Tuesday at Long Beach State, one of the sites of the spectator-free Big West Tournament.


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