A high school basketball tournament in Indiana has been connected to at least five COVID-19 deaths, USA Today reported.
Roscoe Taylor, Jim DeSalle, Charles Johnson, Paul Loggan, and Larry Rush, all attended Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis for the sectional semifinals along with 2,800 fans on March 6.
Several of their loved ones told USA Today that they believed the tournament, which concurrently took place with 63 other games at different venues across the state, could have been where the COVID-19 victims contracted the virus.
While there is no way of telling how they were infected, an infectious disease expert said a packed high school basketball game would be «pretty fertile territory for spreading infection.»
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On March 6, 2,800 Indiana high school basketball fans packed into the Lawrence Central High School gym in Indianapolis for the sectional semifinals between Warren Central and North Central— the » hottest ticket in the state of Indiana for high school basketball,» according to USA Today.
It would later be discovered that the March 6 high school game was also the event in which five Indiana residents are believed to have contracted the novel coronavirus and later died due to complications with COVID-19.
Warren Central fan Roscoe Taylor, Lawrence North High School basketball assistant coach Jim DeSalle, Warren Central fan Charles Johnson, North Central High School Athletic Director Paul Loggan, and Lawrence North fan Larry Rush, all attended the sectional semifinals.
Several of their loved ones told USA Today that they believed the game could have been where they contracted the virus.
«I feel like that’s probably where we got it,» Kay Johnson, the widow of one of the five victims, told USA Today. «Too many have gotten sick who were there. The sad thing is we just didn’t know. We didn’t have the information to go on.»
The morning of the game the Indiana State Health Department reported its first coronavirus related case. At the time, Indiana’s state department of health commissioner Dr. Kris Box said there was «no ongoing risk to the public» and advised Indiana residents to take precautionary measures in line with the CDC recommendations at the time.
However, he noted: «The situation with COVID-19 is changing rapidly and we can expect to see other cases in Indiana in the future.»
Shortly after, the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) received a surge of concerned calls related to the coronavirus and what it meant for the Indiana high school basketball tournament, USA Today reported.
In spite of the news, IHSAA and four athletic directors involved in the high school tournament, including one of the COVID-19 victims, Paul Loggan, decided that the games would go on as scheduled.
«We will continue to monitor the developments and listen to medical experts and if it becomes necessary to make adjustments to high school sporting events, we will work with our member schools to take every precaution to ensure a healthy and safe environment for everyone involved,» IHSAA said in a statement on March 6.
The faceoff between Warren Central and North Central took place that night along with 63 other games in different venues across the state, according to USA Today. However, many sports fans were still packing into stadiums, fields, and gyms, across the country at the time.
Only a week later it became clear that the novel virus was sweeping the country, and had infected athletes including Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz.
On March 10, The Ivy League became the first conference to cancel its basketball tournament followed by the NCAA, who canceled March Madness on March 13; IHSAA postponed the high school tournament on the same day, reversing an earlier decision to allow the games to continue with only 75 attendees per school.
States didn’t begin implementing statewide coronavirus lockdown measures until a week later — Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb issued a stay-at-home on March 23, which would go into effect on March 24, according to the Indiana government website.
Dr. Beeler said the state should have «done stuff differently back then,» but claimed they had «almost no information back then.»
«It was just starting to hit us. The consequences of shutting everything back down back then weren’t fully understood,» Beeler told USA Today. Now, a month and a half after Indiana’s first confirmed coronavirus case, the novel virus has infected 10,641 and killed 545, according to data collected by John Hopkins.
Gerad Good, an assistant coach at Lawrence North High School, recalls the games in the Indiana high school tournament still remembers the sectional semifinals as «the most fun games I’ve been part of in a long, long time.»
«That was great basketball for three or four days — a packed gym with nothing but good teams competing and working their butts off. It was great,» Good told USA Today.
«But then you start putting the pieces together… all we know is that this virus has changed a lot of people’s lives,» he added.
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