COVID-19 Roundup: MLB Participates in Coronavirus Study

This is the latest installment of a regular series in which the FanGraphs staff rounds up the latest developments regarding the COVID-19 virus’ effect on baseball.

MLB players, team employees comprise enormous COVID-19 study population

Players and other employees from 27 of the 30 teams have elected to take part in the first and largest study of COVID-19’s spread in the United States, according to stories by ESPN and The Athletic. The study has no intention of assisting a return to baseball in 2020.

According to reports, as many as 10,000 people have volunteered for the study, in which participants use at-home test kits to find out if they have COVID-19 antibodies in their blood. Within 10 minutes, a person will know whether or not they have contracted COVID-19 at some point in the past, and will then send a photograph of their results to a team health specialist, along with a survey asking a range of questions about the participant’s age, gender, and race, as well as where they’re from, what their social distancing practices are, and whether they’ve knowingly been in contact with anyone infected by COVID-19. The finger-prick test is not the same as those being used by health care providers on the front lines, as it is not intended to identify active infections. All volunteers will be anonymous, and MLB says it will not identify the three teams that chose not to take part.

Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of medicine at Stanford University who will be examining the results of the study and writing a paper on his findings, says that MLB’s participation will be “unbelievable for public health policy.” Once the results are compiled, medical professionals should have a much better idea of the true infection and death rates across the country, and better understand how the virus spreads, all of which will be crucial to knowing how and when it will be safe to re-open the country.

Rob Manfred among group of league commissioners, team owners to advise Trump on opening economy

There are wide-reaching studies that will draw conclusions based on the data that comes from them, and then there is whatever this is:

It’s worth noting that Manfred — even with MLB’s continuously evolving proposals for how to play a 2020 season — hasn’t really come across as reckless when it comes to baseball’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. That might be good sense, or it might just be knowing that it would be very bad PR if the sport escalated a global health crisis. Dana White and Vince McMahon, meanwhile, have fought hard to ensure that their own organizations continue to operate as close to normally as possible. In any case, these are probably not the folks whose hands I would put millions of lives in, but I am but a humble baseball blogger.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says a return to baseball is possible with necessary precautions

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading infectious disease expert who has gained fame through his work fighting the coronavirus pandemic in recent months, went on the Snapchat show Good Luck America on Wednesday and spoke, among other things, about a potential return to baseball in 2020.

“There’s a way of doing that,” Fauci said. “Nobody comes to the stadium. Put (the players) in big hotels, you know, wherever you want to play. Keep them very well surveilled … Have them tested every week, and make sure they don’t end up infecting each other or their family, and just let them play the season out.”

Fauci’s comments lined up well with rumors reported last week about Major League Baseball potentially beginning its season with all 30 teams in a strict quarantine in Arizona. That proposal, however, has numerous obstacles, as my colleague Ben Clemens wrote shortly after the news broke.

Fauci’s interview can be seen here:

Brewers to pay employees through end of May

The Milwaukee Brewers became the third team to announce that they will keep a normal pay schedule for employees until May 29, the Friday after Memorial Day.

Major League Baseball announced a similar plan for its own league employees, along with a pay cut for high-ranking officials.

A February-May 2021 season is being discussed for college football

With the NBA, NHL, and all remaining 2019-2020 college sports getting the axe, and MLB still scrambling to make their own 2020 season work in some way, the next domino to fall will be football season. No word has been given yet about a potential suspension of the NFL or college football seasons, but given the ongoing danger a normal sports season would pose to society, it seems like it is just a matter of time before football decision-makers must start making tough calls. According to ESPN’s Chris Fowler, that process has already begun, with the potential for pushing the fall 2020 season into February-May 2021 emerging as a real possibility.

The difficulty facing college football specifically is that schools can’t have a football season if in-person classes are not taking place. If students are not back on campus in the fall, then the spring semester would likely be the soonest chance to get the season started again. That decision, however, would have several ripple effects, such as how the NCAA decides to adjust back to a more typical schedule in the following years, as well as what it would mean for the NFL Draft.

Tony is a contributor for FanGraphs. He began writing for Red Reporter in 2016, and has also covered prep sports for the Times West Virginian and college sports for Ohio University's The Post. He can be found on Twitter at @_TonyWolfe_.

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4 years ago

One way I can imagine the MLB helping is selling all that player medical/health data they’ve collected and own together, probably not for the first or last time