Wednesday, June 10, 2020

How MLB Plans to Keep Players Safe From Coronavirus

By Scott Huntington

Like just about everything else, baseball has been torn apart amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now that the nation has begun to flatten the curve and reduce the spread of the coronavirus, the MLB is restructuring their 2020 season for player safety. This system will change how the teams compete during the upcoming months, much of which remains a mystery to even the biggest baseball fans.

While fans watch the games from home to stay healthy, the teams will do everything they can to protect themselves and their families from COVID-19. Check out how the MLB plans to keep players safe this summer:

1. More Temperature Screenings

Temperature screenings have become a crucial part of the fight against the coronavirus. Although not everyone will experience a fever as a symptom, it quickly identifies those who are actively contagious so they can go into quarantine.

MLB players will experience more temperature screenings to catch the disease as quickly as it appears. Before entering places like stadiums, locker rooms and even dugouts, everyone will have their temperature read as an extra precaution.

2. Weekly Player Tests

The MLB currently partners with a Utah lab to produce drug-testing kits specifically for their teams, so they worked with the lab to shift it to coronavirus test production back in early March. This setup will give the league access to enough tests for players to take multiple times each week as they compete and travel.

3. Additional Family Tests

Because the league's Utah lab will make tests specifically for the teams and MLB staff members, they can also meet the production requirements to test the players' family members. This is a crucial step to ensuring a safe environment for each player to go home to in-between training sessions and games.

4. Strict Quarantine Rules

If a player tests positive for COVID-19 after the season starts, strict quarantine rules have been put in place to remedy the situation. They will have to quarantine at home for a minimum of two weeks and can only return after two negative tests prove they've safely recovered. They'll also need the approval of the team's medical personnel who will be providing and monitoring the tests.

5. Optional Games

Every MLB player has a contract that outlines how many games they're obligated to play during the season. Before the coronavirus, players had limited ways to opt out of games, but now they can sit out for a few reasons. They won't be able to play if they're symptomatic or if they test positive. They can also opt out of playing any game if they're a high-risk individual, such as older players or anyone with preexisting conditions.

6. Increased Locker Room Focus

When MLB players aren't at home or on the field, they're in the locker room. It's a prime environment for viruses to thrive because it lacks good ventilation and has moist, dark spaces for bacteria to grow. The league is determined to prevent this by focusing on even the smallest details.

Surfaces like countertops and lockers will be consistently cleaned. Staff will provide fresh towels to prevent bacteria from growing and transferring when players wipe away sweat or dry off after showers. Every small step is a powerful prevention tool, especially when implemented with every team in the league.

7. Masks Off the Field

Wearing masks during a game would make it difficult for MLB players to get necessary levels of oxygen while sprinting, so they're encouraged to wear masks off the field instead. If they wear N95 masks while traveling and doing other essential activities, they'll prevent 95% of coronavirus particles from entering their lungs.

Cloth and surgical masks are less effective, but are still an essential part of stopping the spread of COVID-19. Players may use any of these three kinds of face coverings to stay safe between games.

8. No Post-Game Fraternizing

Like anyone traveling to a new city, MLB players often hang out with other teams at restaurants, bars, and parties before or after games. They go to tourist attractions and shop at local stores, but that will all change in a post-COVID-19 world.

Instead, players aren't allowed to socialize with anyone outside of their teammates when they travel. They're encouraged to stay in their hotel rooms when they're not at home to reduce the risk of contracting the disease at a public venue. Because the entire league must abide by this rule, it's an excellent way to keep everyone safe even as they drive or fly to games.

Rule Updates Are Possible

COVID-19 is still a relatively new virus to the medical community. New studies will circulate in the coming months and even years that may change how people can prevent or treat the coronavirus. In turn, the MLB may update their rules to maintain the health and safety of their players, families, and staff members throughout the 2020 season and in the future.

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