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Wednesday April 1st, 2020 3:56AM

The Latest: NHL medical officer doesn't see quick return

By The Associated Press
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The Latest on the effects of the coronavirus outbreak on sports around the world:

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The NHL's chief medical officer expects the coronavirus pandemic to get worse before it gets better.

Dr. Winne Meeuwisse says the virus "really just entering the rapid acceleration phase" in North America. That makes it unclear when hockey might resume.

She says the league is thankful only two players have tested positive for COVID-19 so far and its hopeful weeks of isolation will prevent more from contracting the virus. Players and staff have been told to self-quarantine until at least April 4.

There is no timeline for when players might be able to start working out in small groups or report to team training facilities. Meeuwisse says the trajectory of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. and Canada will determine when that might be possible.

Varying recommendations and lockdown regulations across the league's 31 markets could impact how the NHL proceeds. Meeuwisse and deputy commissioner Bill Daly are still unsure whether fans would be allowed in for potential games when they resume.

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Aqueduct has extended the suspension of live horse racing through at least April 5 because of the impact of the new coronavirus in New York.

As a result, the $750,000 Wood Memorial has been postponed. No make-up date has been determined yet for the major Kentucky Derby prep that was to be run on April 4.

Last Thursday, the New York Racing Association suspended racing at Aqueduct after confirmation that a backstretch worker who lived and worked at Belmont Park tested positive for COVID-19. The Belmont backstretch is home to 585 workers who tend to the daily care of more than 1,300 horses stabled on the property.

The pandemic has affected other prep races for the Kentucky Derby, which itself was postponed from May 2 to Sept. 5. The Sunland Derby in New Mexico and Blue Grass and Lexington stakes in Kentucky have been canceled, along with the UAE Derby. The Arkansas Derby was pushed back from April 11 to May 2.

For now, the Florida Derby on March 28 and Santa Anita Derby on April 4 are still scheduled.

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has instructed the 32 teams to close their facilities to all but a select few employees by 6 p.m. Wednesday.

In a memo to the teams, Goodell said the restrictions meant as a safeguard against the new coronavirus will be in force until at least April 8. Then the league will re-evaluate, using advice from medical experts and health authorities. The few exceptions include trainers and doctors treating players, security and technology personnel.

The NFL has gotten some pushback for not postponing the draft scheduled for April 23-25 while the rest of the sports world is largely shut down. The league is developing a new format because it has scrapped the public events set for Las Vegas.

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The Belgian soccer league says clubs should not apply for temporary layoffs for their players despite matches remaining suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The league asked clubs not to burden the government's temporary unemployment scheme for employees forced out of work because of the lockdown measures implemented in Belgium.

The league says exceptions can be made only “for urgent economic reasons."

The league also says it's too early to decide when matches can resume.

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Major League Soccer has extended its moratorium on team training through April 3 and still wants players to stay in their team’s local market.

MLS has targeted May 10 as a potential return date.

Team training facilities may be used only for physical therapy purposes at the direction of the team’s medical staff.

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Roger Federer and his wife, Mirka, say they have donated 1 million Swiss francs ($1.02 million) “for the most vulnerable families” in Switzerland.

Federer writes on his social media accounts that “these are challenging times for everyone and nobody should be left behind.”

The announcement was the first post on his Twitter and Instagram accounts in more than three weeks.

Federer underwent surgery on his right knee five weeks ago and hoped to return for grass-court tournaments in June. The men’s tennis tour has since shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Federer says he and wife hope “others might join in supporting more families in need.”

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The Spanish soccer federation has announced measures to help smaller clubs financially.

The measures include a loan of 4 million euros ($4.3 million) to help pay the salaries of players and coaches.

The loan will be available to clubs from the third and fourth divisions, and futsal clubs. It can be paid back without interest over two seasons.

The federation also says it will negotiate a credit line for teams in the first and second division.

Federation president Luis Rubiales says the federation’s doctors will be made available to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, and the national team’s hotel can be used as a hospital if necessary.

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IOC president Thomas Bach says government guidelines imposing restrictions on daily life only into next month and even President Donald Trump’s target of the “middle of April" to lift them are among the reasons why he waited so long to postpone the Tokyo Olympics.

Bach says “we were in line with these developments” until World Health Organization leaders said Monday the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating.

Bach and the International Olympic Committee faced mounting criticism from athletes last week for publicly supporting holding the Tokyo Games in July and August.

Bach was asked on a conference call why the postponement decision came only after much of the world was in lockdown. He says “we could not see (government) measures being taken lasting until July.”

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Premier League teams Brighton and Bournemouth have become the first clubs to sign up to a campaign to make 100,000 free soccer tickets available to medical workers on the front line during the coronavirus outbreak.

The initiative was conceived by executives at Brighton, which has committed to giving National Health Service workers 1,000 tickets for matches and has invited other clubs from the Premier League, English Football League, Scotland and Northern Ireland to join in.

Bournemouth immediately followed suit, offering “a minimum of” 1,000 tickets.

Brighton chief executive Paul Barber says “we feel this is a small way in which we can show our gratitude for those NHS staff on the front line who are fighting the battle on behalf of all of us and give them something to look forward to.”

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The Kontinental Hockey League has given up on trying to reschedule its playoffs and canceled the remainder of the season.

The Russia-based KHL is widely considered to be the strongest league outside the NHL. It was due to play its conference semifinals when play was suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Teams from Finland and Kazakhstan withdrew because of travel and safety concerns. That left the league with six teams in an eight-team bracket. The KHL tried to draw up a new playoff system and considered resuming in June and July but has now decided to focus on preparing for a 2020-21 season.

League president and former Pittsburgh Penguins forward Alexei Morozov says “we consider that no one has the right to take on responsibility for people’s lives and health.”

It's unclear how or even whether a champion will be declared. The league says the board will discuss how to allocate finishing positions.

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Athletics Australia has canceled its national track and field championships in a bid to help “flatten the curve” of the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision comes a day after the Tokyo Olympics were postponed to 2021, and after the Australian championships had already been postponed.

Athletics Australia chief executive Darren Gocher says he hopes the cancellation gives athletes some certainty and, combined with the Olympics being delayed 12 months, "means that our athletes now have a new goal to work toward.”

The Australian government has imposed strict travel bans, and is urging people to stay at home. Bars, cafes, cinemas and restaurants have been closed, and social events are being curbed. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said no more than five people should attend weddings — including the marrying couple — and no more than 10 people should attend funerals.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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