Public address announcers deliver all kinds of information to crowds or travelers in airports. Most of the time, their voices are background noise.
But not Wednesday night in Oklahoma City. Shortly after warm ups at Chesapeake Energy Arena, the OKC Thunder’s public address announcer told fans the game against the Utah Jazz had been canceled. In the hours that followed, the public learned that a Utah Jazz player had tested positive for COVID-19, otherwise known as the coronavirus.
In many ways, the announcer’s words heralded the coming of something else. A contagion that has gripped the nation and the world, COVID-19’s spread has become more evident by the day and finally crashed into Oklahoma’s way of life this week. Few in the arena will likely forget that moment anytime soon.
Jazz-Thunder game has officially been postponed. Fans have been asked to leave Chesapeake Energy Arena. pic.twitter.com/i0rm4khahI
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 12, 2020
More societal disruption to come
This week’s events appear to be only the beginning of social disruption not seen by Americans since World War II and 9/11. Within 30 minutes of the Thunder’s game postponement Wednesday, the NBA suspended its season.
Thursday, other cancellations came fast.
With tip-off of its first games just hours away, the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association decided to postpone its high school basketball tournaments.
***Due to the public health concern, the OSSAA has postponed all the State Basketball Tournaments.
We will update the OSSAA website as to when the tournaments will be rescheduled.***
— OSSAA (@OSSAAOnline) March 12, 2020
The NCAA, which had decided to play March Madness games with empty arenas and only essential personnel, canceled not only the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, but all of its winter and spring championship events.
The National Hockey League suspended its season. Major League Baseball halted spring training and announced it would delay the start of opening day by two weeks. In a move that could impact the Oklahoma City Dodgers, Minor League Baseball also announced it would delay the start of its season.
Schools and colleges impacted
And while the sports world has been especially disrupted, other aspects of life are being altered by the minute.
The University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University will shutter most of their classrooms for two weeks following spring break, opting for online instruction instead.
Oklahoma City Public Schools said it would shut down a day early for spring break and will engage in a widespread cleaning operation of schools and buses.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends social distancing as a way to prevent community spread of the COVID-19 virus. #OKCPS feels it is in the best interest of our students, families, staff, & the public to cancel classes & district hosted activities for Fri., March 13. pic.twitter.com/mR2Y3KQ1Az
— OKC Public Schools (@OKCPS) March 12, 2020
Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt urged citizens to rally together Thursday.
“Today, let’s all focus on controlling what we can control, let’s love each other, and let’s be smart,” he said in a Twitter thread. “I assure you there’s another chapter on the other side of this one, and let’s all get there together.”
In a press conference Gov. Kevin Stitt said the situation is constantly evolving.
“The situation regarding COVID-19 in Oklahoma has continued to progress,” he said. “The State of Oklahoma remains firm, steady and proactive in our response.”
Still, there may be more societal disruption ahead. Springtime in central Oklahoma is a busy time for festivals and national sporting events. Here’s a look at the landscape of Oklahoma events that might be impacted by COVID-19 in the coming weeks and months.
Festival of the Arts
Held downtown at Bicentennial Park each year, the Festival of the Arts brings in an average of 750,000 visitors each year from a variety of states. This year, it is scheduled for April 21-26. Organizers have not addressed its status at this point.
Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon
Arguably the most high-profile and beloved community event in the city each year, the April 26 Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon includes thousands of participants, volunteers and spectators along its route and at the finish line. New York officials announced their city’s half marathon would be canceled. Boston postponed its famed marathon Thursday.
OU and OSU spring football games
Both OU and OSU are scheduled to hold their spring football games April 18. More than 50,000 fans showed up to see the Sooners in 2018, and 15,000 attended the Cowboys’ spring game last year. Both are huge events.
Earlier this week, OU head coach Lincoln Riley said the team would have to adapt.
“I’m not worried about [the game],” Riley said Tuesday. “I’m not a health expert. More importantly [I will] follow the country and then adhere close to what our university administrators decide. We’re trying to protect our guys right now more than anything.”
Medieval Fair in Norman
The 44th annual event usually draws thousands of visitors to Norman each year. But not in 2020. While it had been slated for April 3-5, organizers announced its cancellation Thursday via Facebook.
Big 12 Baseball Championship
Scheduled for May 20-24 at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, the annual Big 12 baseball tournament is still more than three months away. Busy with the cancellation of their basketball tournaments this weekend, conference officials have not addressed the baseball tournament’s status thus far.
Women’s College World Series
OKC is home to the biggest softball event of the year that brings fans from all over the country. About 80,000 spectators attend annually, and 2020 was supposed to show off a renovated USA Hall of Fame Stadium and Complex. But the event has been canceled as part of the NCAA’s decision to not hold its championships.
(Update: This post was updated at 1 p.m. Sunday, March 15, to include the postponement of the OKC marathon.)