Despite a recommendation from Gov. Mike DeWine, the Columbus Blue Jackets plan to move forward with home games on Thursday and Saturday in front of fans at Nationwide Arena.
A club statement says the arena “has protocols in place to enhance procedures to fight the spread of viruses as they arise. In the case of COVID-19, additional steps have been taken that include an expanded, detailed cleaning throughout all areas of the arena and an increase in the number of hand sanitizer dispensers available to all.”
The Blue Jackets are facing the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday, and the Nashville Predators on Saturday.
"Guests should adhere to recommendations that suggest persons at higher risk, including elderly individuals and those with currently compromised health issues or who are feeling ill, avoid large-scale public events," the statement continued.
The team announcement came Tuesday, hours after DeWine urged organizers to cancel or ban spectators from large gatherings like concerts and sporting events.
DeWine said Blue Jackets and Cleveland Cavalier officials told his office that they have “a different ventilation system,” but he did not elaborate.
Ian Gonsenhauser, chief quality and patient safety officer at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, dismissed the teams' arguments.
"The risk of exposure and transmission for respiratory viruses is related to the transfer of bodily fluids, usually due to direct contact or via close proximity and high velocity transfer such as sneezing and coughing," Gonsenhauser said. "There is no evidence to support that a facility ventilation system will provide protection from this mode of transfer."
DeWine said the guidance from the state is still just a recommendation and not an order.
“We haven’t gotten to that point,” DeWine said.
As the Blue Jackets moved forward with plans to host thousands of fans, the Ohio High School Athletic Association went the other direction by banning nearly all spectators from upcoming tournaments in wrestling, hockey, and boys and girls basketball.
Players can have up to four immediate family members in attendance. Coaches and administrators can pick two family members to attend. For all others, previously purchased tickets are now void and eligible for a refund.
The Ohio State mens' hockey team is slated to face Michigan at Nationwide Arena on Sunday afternoon as a part of the Big Ten tournament.
The Cleveland Cavaliers and their arena Rocket Morgage Fieldhouse are not limiting spectators and have implemented on-going precautionary measures.
The Mid-American Conference decided to limit fans at both its men's and women's basketball tournaments in Cleveland. The Cavs do not have another home game scheduled until March 24.