Coronavirus is unlikely to cause the shutdown of any esports events outside China, but it’s still a good idea to practice good hygiene at tournaments.
At least 80 people have died from a mysterious new strain of coronavirus in China, sparking worldwide fears of a pandemic and causing the League of Legends Pro League to suspend all activities until further notice. With one of the world’s largest esports leagues down for the count, the LPL’s announcement has fans of other esports wondering if the coronavirus outbreak will impact their favourite titles as well.
It’s true that esports events are notorious breeding grounds for infectious diseases. With the back-slapping, handshaking and high-fives that pervade the esports scene, tournaments have developed their own versions of the infamous “con flu” that strikes convention-goers after large events. Attendees of the Evolution Championship Series are often infected with “Evola” following the annual event; last summer, players at Boston Super Smash Bros. major, Shine 2019, were warned about an outbreak of the potentially fatal Eastern equine encephalitis virus. These large events happen all the time: over the weekend, thousands of Call of Duty fans rubbed elbows in the Minneapolis Armory, for the opening event of the Call of Duty League.
So, are any of America’s esports leagues at risk of cancellation due to the spread of this deadly coronavirus strain? The answer is, probably not, for a couple of reasons. First of all, most cases of coronavirus have occurred within China’s borders, though a few cases have been reported in the United States, and elsewhere. It makes sense for a Chinese league like the LPL to shut down in this case – hell, the entire city of Shanghai is basically on lockdown until mid-February – but with minimal cases in the United States and Europe, and no confirmed fatalities from the virus outside China, the risk that a carrier might make his or her way into an esports event is relatively minimal.
Furthermore, while this strain of coronavirus certainly has the potential to be deadly, the individuals most vulnerable to the disease are young children and the elderly — not the target audience of most esports events. Though the disease is dangerous to people of all ages, the 25-year-olds who make up the crowd at most esports tournaments should be relatively safe, providing they practice mindful hygiene and are quick to report any potential flu-like symptoms to a doctor. Those who suffer from mild cases of the virus are likely to recover on their own without incident, making it important to be mindful of potential symptoms. Coronavirus has a two-week incubation period—the time period between infection and the appearance of visible symptoms — and it spreads through coughing, sneezing, and touching surfaces that have been touched by infected individuals.
Should you be bringing a face mask to your next esports event? It certainly can’t hurt. Though the coronavirus is probably not a top concern for North American and European esports fans at this exact moment, the spread of disease is a constant threat at any events where large groups of people congregate. You certainly don’t want to be the first person to contract coronavirus through esports. But, as long as you wear a face mask, pack hand sanitizer, utilize fist bumps rather than handshakes, and stay mindful of any potential symptoms, there’s no need to stay home from your local Street Fighter tournament due to fears of infection.
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