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Arizona’s opener at Utah may be threatened by local COVID-19 conditions

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arizona-wildcats-utah-utes-football-2020-coronavirus-pac12-cancellation-hospital-cases-icu Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images

A swift increase in coronavirus cases in Utah could potentially impact the Arizona Wildcats’ 2020 football season opener.

Arizona is set to open play Nov. 7 in Salt Lake City, the capital of a state that has seen an 11.1 percent increase in new COVID-19 cases over the past week, according to the COVD Tracking Project. Utah’s number of residents hospitalized due to COVID complications, as well as those in intensive care units, are also at or near all-time highs.

It’s expected to get worse in the very near future, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, which on Sunday reported that “Utah’s hospitals are expected to begin rationing care in a week or two” to help navigate the surge.

What does that have to do with football, particularly when the Pac-12 is not allowing fans—other than players’ family members—at games? Local hospitals’ capacity is one of several criteria the conference has established as a reason to cancel a game.

Per the Pac-12’s updated cancellation policies, a game “should be rescheduled or declared a no contest” if “local public health officials of the home team state that there is an inability for the hospital infrastructure to accommodate a surge.”

The Pac-12’s condensed 2020 schedule doesn’t leave any room for games to be rescheduled, other than possibly on Dec. 19, when the teams that don’t make the league title game are set to be matched up with a team from the opposite division. Utah was picked to finish third in the South Division but received four first-place votes, so there’s a decent shot the Utes would already be playing that weekend.

If Utah isn’t allowed to host that first game, could Arizona? The cancellation policies don’t mention the idea of moving games, but the SEC recently shifted a contest between LSU and Missouri from Baton Rouge to Columbia due to a hurricane so anything’s possible.