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Measles Outbreak Hits Colleges Where it Hurts

February 25, 1989 GMT

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ The sound of the basketball hitting the court will echo through the cavernous Civic Center during next month’s postseason tournament. There will be no cheers, no boos - no fans.

Cases of measles at two schools, the University of Hartford and Siena College, have forced East Coast Athletic Conference officials to ban spectators from the March 9-11 tournament in the 15,414-seat arena.

The action is part of a larger quarantine imposed by Connecticut health officials on the University of Hartford’s campus in neighboring West Hartford. Barring new cases, the 21-day quarantine will be lifted March 12.

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″You have to put it into the act-of-God category,″ University of Hartford Athletic Director C. Donald Cook said Friday after an emergency meeting in Boston with conference officials. ″We have to do the best we can, so we’ll go ahead and play behind closed doors.″

More than two dozen cases of the highly contagious disease have been reported at the Loudonville, N.Y., campus of Siena, which is the ECAC’s North Atlantic Conference’s first-place team with a 13-0 conference record. Hartford is fifth, with an 8-6 league record.

Sophomore guard Nate Gainey of Hartford was infected, apparently in a game with Siena. Gainey, who was released from the hospital Friday and returned to his dormitory, has been the only reported case on the Hartford campus so far.

But that was enough to prompt the campuswide quarantine.

The tournament quarantine was the only solution available that would allow the conference to avoid cancellation of the event, Cook said.

Conference officials restructured the tournament to minimize anticipated financial losses, which will be absorbed by the conference’s member schools. Cook said he couldn’t accurately project how much money would be lost by playing the tournament in an empty arena.

Plans were under way to offer refunds to those who had purchased tournament tickets in advance, Cook said. Money from concessions and program sales will also be lost.

The University of Hartford on Friday banned all public events, including meetings, conferences, concerts, plays and exhibitions. In addition, full-time students who haven’t been immunized have been restricted to campus and asked not to have guests until the incubation period for the disease has expired.

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University spokesman Edward Matesky said health records indicate that about 450 of the school’s 7,350 students may be at risk of contracting the disease and officials were working to contact them.

Of the 450, about 170 were immunized Thursday and Friday in the school’s health services office, he said.

A measles outbreak at C.W. Post College in Brookville, N.Y., prompted officials there to cancel activities that include sporting events and dramatic and musical presentations. The Nassau County Health Department said Friday that the unusual steps were necessary because 18 cases of measles have been reported at the college since Feb. 8.

At the University of Hartford, several students said there was confusion on campus about what the quarantine meant.

Posters on campus advertised a ″Measles Dance″ for tonight, but Matesky and students said they didn’t know whether it was a prank.

″I was planning to stay on campus. I know my roommate is planning to leave tomorrow and I don’t know if she’s aware she might not be able to,″ said Leslie Klaidman, 19, of Framingham, Mass., who had a class field trip to a flower show in Hartford canceled Thursday night.

Raymond Hally, 18, of Jericho, N.Y., said he and other students were worried that they might not be able to go to their off-campus jobs.

Jason Rudofsky, 19, of Denver, said the first he learned of the measles scare was when he was turned away from a women’s basketball game on campus Monday, and he was disappointed that he wouldn’t be able to cheer for the men’s team next month.

″The team’s hot right now, to tell you the truth,″ Rudofsky said.