Now that I’ve gotten past the initial shock and weirdness of learning that, after 58 days(!) of no positives, MLB had a player test positive for COVID-19 during the final game of the World Series, I’ll share what we know at the moment.
Firstly, here’s the timeline on how it is that Justin Turner was pulled in the 8th inning of Game 6 of the World Series:
When the Dodgers return to their hotel tonight, everybody will be given a rapid PCR test. On the field right now, as they celebrate, the Dodgers are wearing masks. Unclear as to whether they’ll stay in Dallas area before traveling back to Los Angeles. Situation fluid right now.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 28, 2020
Because of the nature of the playoff bubble, and because there hadn’t been a positive test in so long, very few of us were considering the turnaround times for tests anymore. I wasn’t. Clearly, MLB wasn’t. Hopefully Turner and his teammates and staff had been observing safety protocols closely throughout this process so that there wasn’t a team-wide spread before his test results came back. It would no longer impact any games, but let’s be human for a moment: you don’t want to see anyone get sick.
As for why Turner wasn’t pulled from the game when the initial inconclusive came back, well, it would’ve been the smart and cautious thing to do. But in Game 6 of the World Series, I’m sure the bar was higher (I’m not saying whether I approve of that, I’m just being realistic). Moreover, do we even know how common it’s been for inconclusive results to be returned, retested, and turn out fine? Maybe it’s been happening all along, and this was the first time it came back to bite MLB?
There will likely be lots and lots of questions in the coming days on how this happened, and how crazy coincidental it is that it happened on the very final day of the season. (I don’t mean that to sound conspiratorial, necessarily, but it is just so crazy that it happened like this after no positives for so long.)
In the meantime, the talk will be about this:
Rob Manfred said Justin Turner was removed from the game in the 7th and “immediately isolated to prevent the spread” of COVID.
So how did this happen? pic.twitter.com/7967tswcpr
— Don Van Natta Jr. (@DVNJr) October 28, 2020
Justin Turner went into isolation after finding out he had tested positive. He eventually returned to the field on his own accord.
When MLB officials found out, they instructed security to get Turner back into isolation. Turner refused to leave.https://t.co/GbgOeFxKZA
— Jared Diamond (@jareddiamond) October 28, 2020
Turner, who has been with the Dodgers for six years (six playoff seasons that ended before a trophy), was not supposed to come back out on the field with a whole lot of people out there that he hadn’t otherwise been close to in the dugout and clubhouse. But, according to reports, he did so against the protocols, and against the requests of league personnel, some team personnel, and league security. Ken Rosenthal indicates, however, that some team personnel wanted Turner back out there, and understandably many of his teammates did as well. It would be brutal for a guy to go through all of this season, plus the last six years as a Dodger, only to have the best moment of all ripped away at the last minute.
Here’s the problem, though. When we talk about “superspreader events,” this is what they look like: one person, together in a very large group of people in close proximity, transmits the virus quickly to several other people. Those people then transmit the virus to their close contacts, and so on and so on. It’s a weak link in the normal one-to-one person spread, and it’s how one case can become hundreds in relatively short order. Some research indicates upwards of 80% of COVID-19 cases are attributable to only 10 to 20% of the people infected.
Does any of that mean Turner’s actions will definitely infect another person, let alone cause an explosion of cases? Of course not. It might. It might not. Statistically, any individual case like this causing an explosion seems pretty unlikely, I’d think. But that’s the problem, right? At an individual level, our actions might not cause the big bad thing. But collectively, if we all act like mere individuals doing our own thing, spread across a large population, we get … well … exactly what we’ve gotten in this country.
I can empathize with Turner in this situation. Really, I can. And although I am not excusing the choices made, I do think we have to acknowledge the human-ness at play here – a once in a lifetime moment, with emotions so high, with very little time to deliberate … sometimes we act. We just act. We just go out and live life. It was a mistake in this case. Clearly. But I can see how it happens. I can put myself in those cleats and understand how difficult it would be to have that moment taken away because a test says I have a thing, especially when I was already around a lot of these same people all game.
It’s just that what happened is an example of the kind of thing we can’t be doing right now if we actually want this pandemic to improve. People are getting very sick, still. People are dying, still. I hope there are no serious consequences from last night, and this is the last we really have to dig into the dang World Series as a superspreader event. What a nightmare that would be. I guess I just want the initial takeaway here to be an opportunity to take stock of where we are, and about the possible gatherings that lie ahead for us this fall and winter. Be safe, my friends. Please. Do it for yourself, for your loved ones, and for lots of other humans you don’t yet know.