A youth basketball tournament showcase scheduled to start Thursday was canceled after a player who participated in a similar event last week tested positive for COVID-19.

© Rick Egan
(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson makes a comment at the grand opening the new Salt Lake City Area office for the U.S. Census Bureau, Oct. 1, 2019.

“Due to unforeseen circumstances, and out of an abundance of caution, the Rocky Mountain Showcase is postponed until 2021,” a notice on the tournament’s website reads. “We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience and late notice. Jam On It had every intention of running an outstanding event.”

A similar event took place seemingly without a hitch last weekend. The Big Mountain Jam, the first of the two-part showcase, occurred at the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy from Thursday through Saturday. Mike Killpack, an organizer of both showcases who also runs Utah AAU, said Tuesday that close to 200 teams participated in the first event.

“There was no problems at all,” Killpack said Tuesday. “We followed al of the COVID guidelines that the county health department put on us.”

But someone still managed to test positive for the novel coronavirus, and now the Salt Lake County Department of Health will start contact tracing. Before the tournament was officially canceled, county health department spokesperson Nicolas Rupp said the event was suspended so the department “complete a thorough epidemiological investigation into who might have been exposed.”

“While local health departments don’t have the authority to approve or deny planned events that meet the state’s guidelines, now that there is a confirmed exposure risk we need to determine —before the tournament series resumes— who can play and who needs to quarantine to watch for symptoms,” Rupp said.

The county health department gave three additional recommendations so the tournament could go ahead. Those included: no shared water bottles for players, face masks for players while sitting on the bench, and keeping a list of everyone — including spectators — to make contact tracing easier if someone tested positive. The additional measures were not required.

As the owner and operator of the expo center, the county has the ability to set rules for the shows it hosts, — a power county leaders have used often in the past few months, including the basketball tournament.

Earlier this year, the contractor that runs the Salt Lake County Equestrian Center allowed the Jordan World Circus to perform there — but only with the agreement that the show would leave behind its exotic animals, like tigers and elephants.

Late last year, Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson created a policy requiring gun shows in county-owned facilities to conduct federal background checks on anyone attempting to purchase a firearm. The rule applies to all county-owned facilities, but gun shows are only regularly held at the expo center in Sandy.

SMG had previously imposed other restrictions on gun shows, including prohibitions on magazines inside firearms and on patrons loading and unloading firearms inside the venue.

SMG contracts the expo center for the county and had its plan for the tournament approved by the health department.

The two-part tournament was originally scheduled to take place during the last two weekends in June, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the recent rise in coronavirus cases, the county allowed the two tournaments to happen in July because they were previously scheduled and the organizers met the state’s requirements for holding an indoor event in the “yellow” risk protocol.

Salt Lake Tribune reporter Taylor Stevens contributed to this report

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