Francis Ngannou | Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
The state of Ohio is moving swiftly to prevent the spread of the coronavirus with an order issued on Thursday to prevent spectators from attending upcoming sporting events.
Governor Mike DeWine signed an order on Thursday banning all mass gatherings over 100 people in the state of Ohio. Numerous sporting events have already been postponed in the expectation that the order would be handed down.
The order would obviously affect the upcoming UFC on ESPN 8 card in Columbus, which is scheduled for Nationwide Arena on March 28.
“In a moment Dr. [Amy] Acton [from the Ohio Department of Health] will be signing an order banning the gathering together of people over 100 people,” DeWine said during a press conference on Thursday.
“So this is an attempt to make sure that everyone understands that we cannot be gathered together. We cannot be in close proximity to each other.”
— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) March 12, 2020
The UFC has made no official statement regarding plans for the upcoming card in Ohio or whether the card will move forward as scheduled with no spectators in attendance.
Governor DeWine previously confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in Ohio contracted through “community spread,” which means the patient did not have any known direct contact with an infected person, nor did they travel outside the country recently. The person who contracted coronavirus is in Stark County, approximately 90 minutes north of Columbus where the UFC event is being held.
A fifth person who contracted COVID-19 through community spread has now been confirmed as well.
“Community spread is a game-changer,” DeWine said. “You’re going to see us taking more aggressive actions now. Please know that we’re doing this to protect Ohioans and protect our healthcare system.”
With the order issued by the governor’s office, the UFC and other sporting events in the state will be forced to follow protocols preventing any spectators in attendance. As noted by the Governor’s statement, the events can still move forward as scheduled, but no crowds will be allowed at the arenas.
States across the U.S. have started making similar moves in an effort to slow down the spread of the disease with more than 1,000 confirmed cases in America so far.