NEW YORK – Thirty baseball teams from 30 cities are trying to play 60 games in a coronavirus epidemic that didn’t seem to peek into the United States.
Trustworthy? Suitable? Unscrupulous?
It even depends on who the experts are talking to:
“Baseball games can work,” said Dr. John H. Snyder, a professor of global health at Boston University of Public Health. David Hummer said. “I think it’s possible.”
“There are some sports that are more risky than high-risk,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Protection. “Baseball is an intermediate type of risk.”
“I’m terrified of the MLB’s plan,” said Dr. Zach Binny, an epidemiologist at Emery University. “It could be a disaster.”
Public health experts have mixed feelings about baseball’s hopes of opening its season on July 23. Basketball then, players and their families face a difficult task to stay safe away from the ballpark, especially in hard-hit areas, including Florida and Texas, and with traveling teams.
Unlike the NBA and NHL, Major League Baseball teams will not be separated into bubbles – they will travel across the country.
In most cases, there is uncertainty.
Adalza said, “I don’t think you can fully measure what the risk will be.
The MLB has provided the team with 113 pages of operation manuals with detailed seasonal protocol details of the epidemic short 60 games.
Players will be tested every 48 hours thereafter. Masks and social distance are always a must except on the field. Backups can view games from the stand instead of dugouts. There are no sunflower seeds. No spit. Not licking fingers. Even mascots will not be allowed near.
Baseball has general guidance to avoid contact with people outside the world, as well as protocols for air travel, bus travel, private cars and hotels.
Can all this keep the players safe? Can this save MLBs from having resources in their host communities? What if fans are allowed to take part in the games in September and October, as some team owners have suggested?
In short, can it work?
Two weeks in prison camps, there are some reasons to be optimistic.
According to data released by the MLB on Friday, only 0.4% of the players and coaches tested since June 2 have returned positive. This is much lower than the national positive rate of about 9%.
Tests have been delayed, especially around July 4, and at least one person in two of the 30 groups tested positive.
Nevertheless, the results are undoubtedly encouraging.
“It’s a good starting point,” said Hammer, an infectious disease specialist at Boston Medical Center.
It remains to be seen whether this will be permanent.
Testing is an important pillar of MLB planning, but it is rarely foolish. Put aside the frustrating delays that forced several teams to cancel the practice – even if the screenings were handled perfectly, there were errors.
Players and on-field staff provide samples every 48 hours and take one to two days to process the results. That means players can take a test, take part in one or two games or practice, and it won’t be found after they have a Cavid-19.
“There are a lot of cases here, you can’t catch them fast enough,” Binny said.
So transmission risk should be kept low, even with uniforms containing coronavirus-positive players.
The nature of the game should help.
“It’s not the transient communication that spreads the virus,” said Adalza, who is on the NCAA’s Cavid-19 advisory panel. “It’s intensive contact for 10 to 15 minutes, so as people hang out in the dugout, as an epidemic it leads to the spread of the virus.”
The playground – even the battery box – should be fairly safe except for catchers and plate umpires. The court further said that baseball itself should not be a problem, as surface-based infections are less common.
“The risk of moving forward in front of teammates is going to be very low,” Hummer said.
Adalza and Hummer are optimistic about the MLB’s protocol, noting that exposure may be limited to socially distant chartered flights, hotels and spacious ballparks without appreciation.
Hummer said, “The risk of aerosol transmission in an aircraft is limited to your row and possibly a row and front row.”
“I think they provide substantial benefits and reduce the risk of infection,” Adalza said of baseball’s off-field protocol. “But it’s not going to be Ironclad.”
Binny is more concerned. He thinks the bubbles used by the NBA and NHL are a suitable gamble, but he expressed concern that MLB protocols would be inadequate in viral areas such as Florida and Texas.
“These could close a few cases, and even a minority,” he said of the MLB’s plans. “But if you keep getting cases from the community left and right, I have some concerns about the ability to tolerate it.”
Experts do not fear that ball clubs could pose a significant risk to traveling people. Traveling teams will be relatively small and they should use private transport so there should not be too much discussion with people who are not in any way approved by the league.
In fact, the opposite is probably true – if the league fails, it could be because players can’t avoid the virus while away from teammates.
“I’m honestly more concerned about community exposures,” Hummer said. “Whatever happens after dinner, drinks or games, and what kind of exposure they may have there that increases the risk of infection more than any other way around.”
The MLB is trying to ensure that its nearly 10,000 weekly trials do not strain public resources using personal benefits. The court said such disputes could arise in some areas, but added that the MLB’s investment could encourage much-needed innovation and increased test production.
There is a way MLB can pose a serious public risk, according to Binny, by opening the doors to the winds.
Owners of the New York Yankees, Texas Rangers and Houston Astros have said they expect limited-capacity crowd hosting by the end of the season. Binny called the idea “completely unreasonable” until a vaccine was developed.
“When you start talking about fans, you’re totally adding risks, especially to public health,” Binny said. “And the only benefit is the money in the pockets of the owner and the stadium authorities.”
Adalza and Hummer think that the distance to a stadium socially – bleachers, bathrooms, discount lines and elsewhere – was admirable but complex.
Before considering any of these, the virus must be prevented.