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NSAA limits fan participation at State Tournament

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LINCOLN — NSAA Executive Director Jay Bellar said at a Wednesday morning press conference that despite the fear of coronavirus, the Boys State Basketball Tournament would go on this week, however, fan participation will be limited.

Bellar said at this time the NSAA is limiting fan attendance at the State Tournament games to just family members.

Bellar said the NSAA now has to, "try to figure out to the best of our ability, the logistics of what this tournament is going to look like."

"We are very saddened that it can't got on with all the fans there, but we do realize that this is the best thing to do," Bellar said.

Bellar said other changes may be put in place, however, no other decisions have been made at this time.

Bellar said his organization will rely on school officials to determine who immediate family members are, and who should be admitted to the games.

Bellar said the decision was made after discussions with the Nebraska Public Health Department, and the Lincoln, Lancaster County Public Health Department.

Concerns arose after a Crofton area student was hospitalized this week and diagnosed with having contracted the disease. The student had attended the Cedar Catholic and Weeping Water State Girls Tournament game last week and went on to the court to hug family members after the game.

Because of this Hartington connection, school at both Cedar Catholic and Hartington-Newcastle was cancelled for today and the rest of the week.

Lincoln Lancaster County Health Dept. Interim Director Pat Lopez said the Health Department made contact with that student's Lincoln relatives and they are now in self-quarantine until March 20.  Lopez said none of those family members are ill or showing symptoms at this time. The student's Cedar County relatives are also in self-quarantine, Lopez said.

Lopez said her department is also investigating any other potential contacts that student may have had in Lincoln.  Lopez said the department has also been communicating with Lincoln Public Schools and the NSAA  "about next steps."

"After careful consideration, the Health Department is recommending that the NSAA Boys State Basketball Tournament be an event that is without spectators — that we only have immediate family members."

State Commissioner of Education Matt Blomstead said the decision to proceed with the State Basketball Tournament is in recognition that students have worked hard to make it to the tournament.

"The reality to not include as many spectators and to limit spectators to immediate family is to...try to protect public health and the spread of the coronavirus across the state," he said. "Cancelling a large event like this, it's about public health. It's about insuring that we don't create an environment that actually makes it worse for the state of Nebraska or makes it worse for our vulnerable populations across the state. I believe this is absolutely the right call and the right approach to take."

 More information will be released when it becomes available