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Could Coronavirus Affect The Overwatch League?

A new strain of coronavirus has been observed in China. Since the World Health Organization began to publish daily reports of the outbreak the number of confirmed cases has quadrupled at over 800. With four Chinese teams hosting almost half of the homestand this year, there are a lot of questions for the Overwatch League.

Key Information About the New Strain of Coronavirus

The World Health Organization is working with local authorities in the wake of the outbreak. Specifically in mainland China, to better understand the new strain of the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also put together teams to deal with the outbreak.

Although there is not a lot of precise information about it. The international organizations have begun to educate the public. The dangers, and the risk factors of the new coronavirus strain.

What is Coronavirus?

The name itself, coronavirus. it’s just the classification of a particular type of virus. The new strain of which is being called 2019-nCoV by international organizations. The virus was first observed in late December. Authorities are still working on identifying all of its properties. At this moment the virus seems to attack the respiratory system, causing pneumonia-like symptoms.

Both the WHO and the CDC are working with the presumption that the virus is not currently capable of Human-to-Human transmission. But there have been conflicting reports. Some doctors in China have reported the virus is capable of Human-to-Human transmission.

Where is The Epicenter of The Outbreak?

In the city of Wuhan, China. The city has been placed under a soft lockdown over the possible spread of the coronavirus. With public transportation, inner-city transport and planes being grounded for an extended period.

The city sits within 600 miles of Shanghai, Hangzhou and Guangzhou. More dangerous still. There are already some confirmed cases as far as Japan, Thailand and South Korea. The outbreak has also been exacerbated by the Chinese New Year, which is the single largest human migration each year.

Image courtesy of the World Health Organization

Could This Affect The League?

Some cases have already been reported in the United States. From unknowing carriers of the virus. The World Health Organization has started to provide day to day updates on the spread of the outbreak. These are helping shape Government response to the virus.

With this in mind. The extensive travel schedule, which will include international flights to and from China, could be reviewed. The League might need to layout a safety plan to combat the spread of the virus in its homestands.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC, has elevated the outbreak to Level 3. As such they have recommended people to avoid nonessential travel to Wuhan, China. This also means they could soon extend that recommendation to other cities in the region. Pending more information as to the extent of the outbreak.

The Risk is in High Numbers

13 of the 27 weeks of the league will be hosted by a team in the danger zone, the Pacific East Division. Worse yet, for the first seven weeks of play, the pacific conference will be mostly based in mainland China. After this, the teams will move into the United States until week 19.

Pacific East
Image courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

At this moment the World Health Organization is working under the presumption that the virus is incapable of Human-to-Human transmission. Still, amassing larger numbers of people inside a closed arena for hours at the time increases various risk factors.

Other Esport’s Responses

Recently, the World Electronic Sports Games canceled their CS:GO APAC Finals writing in January 22nd:

In an attempt to limit international travel in order to control the spread of the coronavirus, we are announcing the cancellation of the WESG APAC Final.

Players at Risk

Sadly, there is already one player that could be at risk. Min-seong “diem” Bae. Diem has a history of respiratory difficulties over his career. Recently on January 20th he was placed in health break at the Shanghai dragons to recover. As such, he is vulnerable to the virus.

What Could The League do?

That depends on what the league might want to do. There is a series of scenarios that could happen. Ranging from safety-oriented cancellations to only adhering to basic health guidelines.

As more information is known about the virus these could change. It’s hard to properly estimate the true number of cases and the potential risks at this moment. But with each passing day, the WHO and CDC provide more information to possibly make better decisions on the ground.

Canceling all Pacific East Homestands
guangzhou charge 2020
Photo: Ben Pursell For Blizzard Entertainment

Option number one would be the most drastic but also the safest of them all. Moving all the currently scheduled matches in the Pacific East Division to the Blizzard Arena in Los Angeles. Thankfully there are no two pacific homestands at the same time, meaning this won’t create too many overlaps on the matches.

From a competitive standpoint, this could easily lead to pacific teams outperforming their competition in the Atlantic. But the health safety of their players, staffers and fans could easily outweigh the initial criticism.

Concentrating all Pacific East Homestand into a Single City

The second option would concentrate all the homestand somewhere safe, for instance, Seoul. Doing so would greatly lower the chance of the virus to spread outside that city. This also allows for better screening of attendees. Teams from the Atlantic conference would also have the chance to avoid prolonged exposure by only having to visit a single city.

In terms of competitiveness once again pacific could have an advantage but not as much as before. This would allow fans from the teams to visit what should be a safe city.

Playing With Little to no Attendance
Chengdu Hunter Ameng
2019-03-10 / Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Changing transportation and hotels can be an immense logistical nightmare this close to the start of the season. Another option for the league is to reimburse ticket holders to have empty arenas to play in.

By avoiding the large gatherings of people the spreading of the coronavirus will be reduced. It might be sad to envision league games in empty arenas, but that might be the most frictionless way to keep everyone safe and exert minimal cost unto teams.

Carrying on With Only The General Health Guidelines

Although there have been no official statements from Blizzard as to what will be done to curtail the virus in the Homestands. The World Health Organization has released an extended list of recommendations for travelers and locals that can reduce the risk of infection. These include:

  • avoiding close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections;
  • frequent hand-washing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment;
  • avoiding close contact with live or dead farm or wild animals;
  • travelers with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice cough etiquette (maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and wash hands).

The WHO also urges people to seek medical attention at the first symptoms of fever and difficulty breathing.

Should You Panic Over Coronavirus?

No, the virus has only seen some isolated cases, its also not inherently lethal. Young healthy adults are generally safe. Provided they have no dangerous preexistent health conditions. The WHO, the CDC, local and national government officials are tracking and using their resources to combat the further spreading of the virus.

Stay Connected

Follow me on Twitter: @Adico_OW for behind the scene insights on the Overwatch League and Coaching.
You can also talk with me in discord (Adico#8961), always happy to help out!

Featured Image Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

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