Wednesday brought news of MLB’s proposed safety protocols, which include guidance against signing autographs and using ride-share programs like Uber and Lyft as a means to limit unnecessary contact. Players will be strictly forbidden from spitting or high-fiving as well. The league has also nixed the possibility of pushing the postseason into December, fearing that a second wave of coronavirus could put the kibosh on the World Series if it’s played too late in the year.
MLB believes it will be able to gain access to adequate testing without taking any away from frontline healthcare workers, but daily testing will reportedly not be mandated. According to Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal, MLB is partnering with Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory, the Salt Lake City facility that runs its performance-enhancing drug program, to convert it to a coronavirus testing center.
Not only would this robust lab handle baseball’s testing, it would have additional capacity to serve the general public as well. Here’s the thing, though: These would not be instant tests — which are harder to procure and would be available for symptomatic individuals — and would not be administered on a daily basis. While it’s not known exactly how often players and employees would be tested, it’s expected to be multiple times a week.
When you’re talking about a test that takes 24 to come back, it’s easy to see how there could be some gaps within which asymptomatic individuals could infect others before the illness is caught. So that means shutting the sport down again, right? Actually no.
Rather than shutting the league down in the event of a positive test, the player or employee “would be removed from the population.” Is it just me, or does that make it sound like they’d be euthanized? Diamond is obviously saying that the person would simply be isolated until they’re no longer contagious. Those who had been in contact would just be monitored more closely.
Another prophylactic measure involves taking the temperature of every individual entering the ballpark each day, whether through the use of infrared cameras or more traditional means. That won’t create some kind of impenetrable barrier or anything, but it could help to spot asymptomatic people or those who are trying to tough it out.
As for those who are at greater risk due to age or medical conditions, Diamond reports that MLB is exploring ways to allow conscientious objectors to abstain from participation. Exactly how that will look has not been determined, but it’s pretty clear that pushing forward with the 2020 season is going to involve participants at every level assuming what they deem to be an acceptable level of risk.
Please understand that I’m not expressing an opinion here, it’s just a matter of fact that there won’t be a vaccine or cure in place by the time MLB would like to start back up. However, there is growing sentiment among public-health experts that being outdoors may present a significantly reduced risk over remaining indoors. Well, at least when we’re talking about bringing together a larger group than just your immediate family in a controlled environment.
Given there’s no way to completely mitigate the threat of COVID-19, the MLB Players Association is going to have to determine whether it is comfortable enough with the protocols the league puts in place to proceed forward. Once that hurdle has been cleared, it’s on to the schedule, playoff structure, and…what was the other thing? Oh yeah, money.