Five Phillies players and three staff have tested positive for COVID-19, the first known outbreak in MLB.
Amid ongoing uncertainty about whether Major League Baseball and the MLBPA will agree on a 2020 season, circumstances surrounding the coronavirus pandemic are certainly now more of a factor than before. For the first time, MLB players have tested positive for the virus — and they belong to the Philadelphia Phillies.
According to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury, five Phillies who were training at the team’s Clearwater, Florida, facility — as well as three staff members — have tested positive for coronavirus in “recent days.”
Due to medical privacy laws, the identities of those infected are not known and high-ranking team officials declined to discuss the matter further with Salisbury, who notes “a significant number of team personnel” still are waiting for their test results, so the COVID-positive numbers could worsen.
It is known, however, that none of the eight COVID-infected members of the Phillies organization have been hospitalized, with the virus under control in all.
The commissioner’s office is aware of the situation, Salisbury writes, adding it is not known whether this outbreak will affect the league’s ongoing negotiations with the union: “Both MLB and the union have consistently stated that matters of health supersede all others as they try to restart the game.”
Florida has recently been in the news for showing signs it could be the next “coronavirus epicenter” as cases spike across the U.S.
The Phillies closed their Florida facility, Spectrum Field, in mid-March and did a thorough cleansing. Still, players rehabilitating from injury were allowed to continue their recovery work under supervision, and in recent weeks, the Phillies allowed several more players to begin working out there.
In acknowledgement of Salisbury’s report, the team announced it has now closed all of its facilities in Clearwater indefinitely. The Toronto Blue Jays, whose facilities in Dunedin, Florida, are just miles away from Clearwater, also shut down their facilities on Friday after a player showed COVID-19 symptoms. The NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning did the same as well, after several players and staff members reportedly tested positive.
It had been reported that if spring training resumes, it would likely take place at Citizens Bank Park rather than Clearwater to minimize exposure around June 28-29. Now, the league faces a much larger issue with actual COVID-positive cases.
“Strict health and safety precautions were taken and group sizes were limited. Still, there was an outbreak,” Salisbury writes.