If a player has coronavirus, Major League Baseball’s testing schedule could leave them carrying the disease for days without knowing they’re spreading it to their teammates.
The league’s initial player safety proposal will test players for coronavirus three times a week, and return results within 24 hours, according to a Daily News source familiar with the relaunch discussions. Additionally, the Wall Street Journal reported that MLB’s early plan doesn’t require the league to immediately cancel a game, let alone suspend the season, if a player does test positive. Instead, MLB hopes to trace exposure.
Trying to restart a season through a pandemic necessitates some risk. No team sport can strictly socially distance themselves — especially not in clubhouses and locker rooms — but MLB’s initial proposal to not test daily likely increases the risk of players spreading the coronavirus among teammates, opponents and other baseball personnel close to the action.
Any interval the league sets between tests will provide a window for players to potentially infect others. If a player catches coronavirus outside the controlled environment of a baseball facility, they could reenter their ballpark with the infection.
In an interview with NPR, Centers for Disease Control director Dr. Robert Redfield estimated “as many as 25%” of people carrying coronavirus were asymptomatic.
And at least one medical consultant, Dr. Glenn Copeland of QuestCap, advised teams to implement a daily testing plan so they can identify cases before it’s too late.
Copeland has advised multiple teams across MLB, NBA and NHL on how to resume safely, told USA Today that he recommended daily nasal swabs as a testing method.
Broncos linebacker Von Miller, who recovered from the coronavirus, insists the NFL needs daily testing for players and coaches if they return to the field during the pandemic. “Every day need to test all the players,” Miller told the Washington Post. “It’s got to be part of the routine.”
Similarly, the relaunch guidelines for La Liga, Spain’s soccer league, include daily recommended coronavirus tests to preserve “the safety of players … their immediate families (and) the coaching staff.”
Regardless, as adamant as the MLB players union is about preserving their current, renegotiated compensation structure – which pro-rates existing contracts according to games on the schedule, rather than a much-maligned revenue share proposed by the owners – some are eager to try and bring baseball back.
“I know we will be asked to social distance in the clubhouse, but that will be difficult and ask a lot of the players and staff,” said one player, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“No matter how well we prepare, I think we will need some measure of luck on our side. There is no failsafe approach available, unfortunately.”