Coronavirus watch at Penns
Organisers of the annual Penn Relays, one of the world’s biggest track-and-field events for high schools, are taking a wait-and-see approach as the world continues to grapple with the widespread outbreak of the coronavirus.
The Penn Relays for 2020 will be held from April 23-25, and as is customary, large numbers of local high schools and colleges are making plans for the trip to the prestigious event hosted by the University of Pennsylvania at its Franklin Field Stadium.
The recent outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has already hit sporting events hard in several countries. In track and field, the World Athletics Indoor Championships, which was scheduled for this weekend in Nanjing, China, has been postponed until next year. The outbreak in Europe has forced the cancellation of a friendly match between Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz and the Catalonia team in Spain, while several Serie A football matches in Italy have been postponed or are being played in empty stadiums, a few are being played without spectators. There is also the possibility that this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, could be cancelled. Up to yesterday, there were 461 cases of the coronavirus in Japan.
Worldwide deaths from the virus have gone above 3,500 while in the United States, the death toll reached 19 yesterday.
Penn Relays carnival director Dave Johnson told The Sunday Gleaner that they are keeping a close watch on the spread of the coronavirus ahead of next month’s meet.
“The University of Pennsylvania is consistently monitoring the global outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), working with experts and coordinating with the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other government agencies. The university will update its existing pandemic planning procedures as needed with this fast-evolving situation,” he stated.
According to a release put out by Johnson on the university’s website, they will be following guidance from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.
“CDC and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have not cancelled any activities or events due to the current coronavirus concerns at this time,” it said.
“As conditions evolve, the university will continue to review, update, and publicise its travel and event polices,” the release added.
Quizzed on whether there are contingency plans for schools attending the Penn Relays, Keith Wellington, president of the Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA), the body that runs high school sports in Jamaica, said they would have to focus first on this month’s Boys and Girls’ Championships.
“First, we have to think about our Boys and Girls’ Championships, which starts in a few weeks’ time … and the immediate risk it (coronavirus) would have and how we will deal with it,” he stated.
“Penn Relays is some days after our local championships, and we will have to decide how to advise schools going to Penns, and that depends on what happens here and there (Pennsylvania). I have also spoken to Dave (Johnson), and he told me it is a day-to-day approach, and he is going to wait and see for a couple of more weeks before a decision is taken,” said Wellington.