Proposed Safety Protocols Include Creation of Coronavirus Testing Facility for Baseball and General Public
Today, the Wall Street Journal revealed many more details about baseball’s proposed approach to handling health and safety this year.
Update on MLB's proposal: The league plans to partner with the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory, the lab that runs its PED program, to turn it into a coronavirus testing facility to handle testing for baseball and the general public.https://t.co/UOz38khPRv
— Jared Diamond (@jareddiamond) May 14, 2020
As you’d expect, one of the major components of the plan is massive testing. However: (1) the plan does not call for daily testing, only multiple times per week; (2) the plan primarily uses 24-hour tests; and (3) rapid antigen tests (the 15-minute kind) would be used only for players/personnel who show or complain of symptoms (they are in shorter supply). If a test comes back positive, the player/personnel will be quarantined, and the team will not be shut down. The theory is that this is enough proximate testing to prevent an outbreak on a team. I am not an expert, though I know that previous public discussions involving sports – including from Dr. Anthony Fauci – indicated a preference for rapid daily tests, not multi-weekly 24-hour tests.
To facilitate testing, MLB would partner with the facility that conducts its PED testing, and convert it into a COVID-19 testing center, both for baseball use and the general public. That’s one good way to soften the PR risk of using tests for baseball players and personnel (though the expectation is that testing availability will continue to ramp up before baseball resumes play).
Obviously there are other social distancing components to the plan, as well as constant check-ins for symptoms. Read the WSJ piece for the full details.
In all, the protocols are about what you would realistically expect, though I would have preferred to see daily testing (and for that to be an acceptable use of testing supplies/capacity by the time baseball resumes, which is still TBD).
There is a tacit acknowledgement here, both in the testing protocols and the quarantining – rather than shutting down – plan for positive tests. The league appears to be acknowledging the reality that the rest of the country is facing: when you end lockdown procedures in favor of humans interacting with each other, you’re going to see new COVID-19 cases. We did not eradicate the virus, we do not have herd immunity, and there is no vaccine. So long as those things are true, then participate in any activity together in large groups, regardless of the best-laid protocols, there will be infections. Indeed, it isn’t even the fact that players will be around each other that will cause infections – it’s the fact they will still be living life. Anywhere we go right now means some level of risk of infection. Thus, MLB’s approach seems to be primarily focused on: yes, some people will contract the virus, but let’s make sure we’re doing what we can to ensure it doesn’t spread further from there.
I hope, then, that players (and personnel!) are fairly compensated for this added risk. I’m not saying they shouldn’t do it. I’m saying only that the balance is properly struck between what’s worth doing for fans, what’s worth risking for players, what can and cannot be ruled out in that process, and what the players and personnel are paid.