California’s BNP Paribas Open has been called off amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. The annual tennis tournament, held in Indian Wells, marks the first major U.S. sporting event to be canceled over public health concerns.

Indian Wells and the Coachella Valley region was declared under a public health emergency following a locally confirmed case of the coronavirus. Under the guidance of state officials, the CDC and medical professionals, tournament officials revealed the prestigious event will not take place as planned.

“We are very disappointed that the tournament will not take place, but the health and safety of the local community, fans, players, volunteers, sponsors, employees, vendors, and everyone involved with the event is of paramount importance,” said Tournament Director Tommy Haas in an official statement. “We are prepared to hold the tournament on another date and will explore options.”

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Local health officials echoed similar sentiment as COVID-19 continues to impact areas around the world and spread throughout the U.S.

“There is too great a risk, at this time, to the public health of the Riverside County area in holding a large gathering of this size,” shared Dr. David Angus, who is a Professor of Medicine and Biomedical Engineering at USC. “It is not in the public interest of fans, players and neighboring areas for this tournament to proceed. We all have to join together to protect the community from the coronavirus outbreak.”

News of the tournament’s folding came to light just hours before opening round play was set to begin March 9. As a result, players who are onsite remain in limbo given the tournament’s now-scrapped status. Many shared their concerns over Twitter, with WTA players Kirsten Flipkens and Sorana Cirstea noting that they had learned the event was cancelled the same way the public did.

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WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon released a statement saying the organization is “disappointed” over the cancellation but called the public health and safety of all involved the “top priority.” Simon noted that the WTA will keep monitoring the situation but added that it is too early to speculate the future of upcoming tournaments.

The canceled event was slated to feature 2020 Australian Open champions Novak Djokovic and Sofia Kenin, as well as mark the return of four-time Grand Slam champion Kim Clijsters, who announced last year she planned to come out of retirement for the second time in her career. Following Indian Wells, the next top-tier tournament on the tennis schedule is the Miami Open, set for March 23-April 5. The French Open will bring the sport’s stars to Paris the following month for the second Grand Slam of the year.

Ticket holders will be able to receive a refund for the 2020 BNP Paribas Open or put their purchase towards a credit for the 2021 tournament here.

Headline image by Ian Gampon, via Wikimedia Commons user Flickr Upload Bot