Five Philadelphia Phillies players and three staff members at the team’s training facility in Clearwater, Florida, have tested positive for COVID-19, NBCSports Philadelphia reports.
The identities of the infected have not been released. But the report mentioned that none of the eight have been hospitalized and “the virus appears to be under control in all of them.”
As a result of the outbreak, the Phillies’ training complex, Spectrum Field, was shut down. The Toronto Blue Jays’ training facility has also reportedly closed, with at least one player awaiting test results. The Blue Jays’ complex is six miles from the Phillies’ in Dunedin, Florida.
The news puts a major damper on the pending plan to play a shortened season starting in July and restart spring training sometime next week. The MLB and the Players Association have been trying to come to financial terms on a season deal.
Phillies confirm positive cases, further testing
A statement from the Phillies said the first case was confirmed on Tuesday, June 16. Friday’s statement also said that eight staff members tested negative. And another 12 staff and 20 players (including major league and minor league players) in the area are in the process of being tested.
Managing partner John Middleton said:
“The Phillies are committed to the health and welfare of our players, coaches and staff as our highest priority, and as a result of these confirmed tests, all facilities in Clearwater have been closed indefinitely to all players, coaches and staff and will remain closed until medical authorities are confident that the virus is under control and our facilities are disinfected.”
Will there be a Major League Baseball season in 2020?
Other sports, like the NBA and NFL, have already dealt with pockets of positive cases. But this is the first for Major League Baseball. It comes at a time when reported numbers of coronavirus cases are experiencing a surge in Florida and a handful of other states.
It remains to be seen what will come of the news and just how widespread and how contained the outbreak in the Phillies organization actually is. Testing is sure to ramp up among the Blue Jays and perhaps other organizations as well, with results forthcoming.
The unfortunate situation highlights a key obstacle in any sports restart plans, namely, the issue of what to do when a player or players inevitably test positive for the virus. If a final decision includes waiting until there’s a coronavirus vaccine before restarting, as some have suggested, hopes of summer baseball in the US will be squashed. When an effective vaccine would be ready is anyone’s guess.
It’s still possible for an agreement to be reached on financial terms, number of games, and safety and testing protocols. The show could still go on.
For now, sports fans must deal with the sad fact that MLB’s 2020 season hangs in the balance. And of course, all are hoping for a full and speedy recovery of the Phillies members who test positive.