M.L.B.’s Restart Encounters an Obstacle It Can’t Negotiate With

Major League Baseball’s players and team owners have spent this week trying to finalize tense negotiations on the structure of a possible 2020 season. But on Friday, the ominous backdrop of those talks — the coronavirus pandemic — showed just how little the sides really control.

The Philadelphia Phillies and the Toronto Blue Jays closed their Florida training complexes in Clearwater and Dunedin on Friday after players on their teams tested positive for the coronavirus. Both teams’ facilities are in Pinellas County, where cases of the virus have been rising.

The Tampa Bay Lightning of the N.H.L. also closed its training facility in Tampa, Fla., after three unnamed players and an unspecified number of staff members tested positive for the virus. The team said the players were in self-isolation and were asymptomatic “other than a few cases of low-grade fever.” The league said 11 players had tested positive since teams opened their facilities for voluntary workouts on June 8.

The Florida Department of Health said in a report on Friday afternoon that Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties — on either side of Tampa Bay — had both reached a one-day high for new cases. There were 372 new cases in Hillsborough County, where Tampa is, and 266 in Pinellas County.

The Phillies said that five players and three staff members at their complex had tested positive for the coronavirus. The team added that while eight staff members had tested negative, there were 12 more staffers and 20 players who were awaiting results. NBC Sports Philadelphia reported that none of the eight people who tested positive had been hospitalized.

John Middleton, the Phillies’ managing partner, said in a statement that the Phillies’ complex “will remain closed until medical authorities are confident that the virus is under control and our facilities are disinfected.”

A Blue Jays spokesman confirmed an ESPN report that the team had shut down its Dunedin complex after a pitcher showed symptoms of the virus. The report said that the pitcher had recently been in contact with Phillies minor leaguers.

On the other side of the state in West Palm Beach, the Astros announced on Friday that a player tested positive for the coronavirus. The player, General Manager James Click said in a statement, had experienced minor symptoms and was recovering. No other players tested positive.

The commissioner’s office sent a 67-page operations manual on health and safety protocols to the players’ union last month. It has not been formally approved, but the plan called for a facility in Salt Lake City to devote a portion of its antidoping laboratory to analyzing the coronavirus tests of players and the club officials authorized to be in close contact with them. Those covered by the plan would have their temperature and other symptoms checked at least twice per day, and anyone with a temperature of at least 100 degrees would be immediately tested for the virus.

Under the plan, anyone who tests positive must self-isolate until cleared by a team doctor and a member of M.L.B.’s medical staff, and cannot rejoin the team until he or she tests negative twice — at least 24 hours apart — and shows no symptoms of the virus.

The league’s plan also has dozens of precautionary measures, which include banning spitting, smokeless tobacco, sunflower seeds and water coolers, providing a personal set of baseballs for each pitcher in the bullpen and requiring social distancing in dugouts.

  • Updated June 16, 2020

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • Will protests set off a second viral wave of coronavirus?

      Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people onto the streets in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases. While many political leaders affirmed the right of protesters to express themselves, they urged the demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further community spread of the virus. Some infectious disease experts were reassured by the fact that the protests were held outdoors, saying the open air settings could mitigate the risk of transmission.

    • My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?

      States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

It all would be unnecessary, of course, if the sides cannot reach an agreement on returning to play, and Commissioner Rob Manfred refuses to implement a schedule over fears of a grievance by the union. The sides finally made tangible progress this week, with owners proposing a 60-game schedule and the players countering with 70 — both at full prorated salaries, an issue that had been a matter of fierce disagreement for months.

The spread in games seems slim enough to resolve now, but there are no sure things considering the sides’ lack of trust and the factor no league can control: the scale of devastation inflicted by the virus.

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