There have been over 2.2 million cases of COVID-19 reported in the U.S. as of Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University. Florida, Arizona, and California are among eight states recording their highest seven-day case averages since the start of the pandemic.
The increase in cases has directly impacted the attempts to return to play for MLB, the NHL, and the NBA. Pro and college football has also felt the impact as they try to prepare to start their season.
Every team in Major League Baseball will shut its spring training camp over concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, a move that came after the Philadelphia Phillies announced that five players had tested positive for COVID-19.
In all, eleven players across the 40-man rosters of at least six MLB teams have tested positive for the coronavirus in the month of June, a source told Jared Diamond and Ben Cohen of the Wall Street Journal.
MLB shuts down all spring training facilities for cleaning and disinfecting https://t.co/GzitYNIVQ0
— HardballTalk (@HardballTalk) June 20, 2020
The identities of affected players and teams are unknown, but Diamond and Cohen report that two of the teams to have players test positive are based in Texas, while four other impacted clubs have spring training complexes in Florida. Soon after the Phillies became the first known team to be affected by the outbreak, Toronto shuttered its site in Dunedin, Florida, about five miles from Philadelphia’s camp in Clearwater. The Blue Jays said one player showed symptoms consistent with the virus.
The San Francisco Giants‘ facility in Scottsdale, Arizona, was shut after one person who had been to the site and one family member exhibited symptoms Thursday. The Texas Rangers closed its camp about 30 miles away in Surprise, saying no one had tested positive but that it wanted to expand testing protocols.
In spite of the doubt that the owners and players can even work out financials, MLB has said that they are now revisiting the idea of isolating the players on all 30 teams and playing the 2020 season in a “bubble,” Diamond and Cohen reported. The league floated multiple bubble proposals during the early stages of the shutdown. One concept would have seen the league realigned into 15-team conferences based on clubs’ spring training homes, while another called for all 30 clubs to play in an isolated environment in Arizona. Those ideas failed to gain traction after some players objected to leaving their families and isolating for several months, but this latest move may change their minds. Another scenario would have the players do spring-training and play their games in stadiums of their choosing, depending on how the coronavirus spreads in upcoming weeks. More than likely, it would mean doing all of this in their home stadiums.
In a statement released Friday, the NHL says more than 200 players have been tested since it began allowing clubs to open facilities for small group skates earlier this month. Of these tested, 11 players have tested positive for COVID-19 since Phase 2 of the league’s return-to-play plan began on June 8.
Most recently, the Tampa Bay Lightning shut down their Phase 2 workouts after multiple members of the organization tested positive for coronavirus. Others who have been in team facilities for small-group workouts are being tested, and the results will determine how the Lightning and NHL move forward.
Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews has tested positive for the coronavirus, two NHL sources told Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun on Friday. Matthews has gone into quarantine at his Arizona home.
POSTMEDIA EXCLUSIVE: Auston Matthews has tested positive for COVID-19. My breaking story: https://t.co/oEAABdUlTU
— steve simmons (@simmonssteve) June 19, 2020
The NHL already plans on using hubs to help keep players and staff safe and may announce their cities as soon as Monday. The leading candidates for hub cities are Las Vegas, Edmonton, and Toronto.
Recently it was reported that star Dallas Cowboy’s running back Ezekiel Elliott, as well as other members of the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans, had positive tests. The NFL allowed some staff and players to return to the team’s training facilities earlier in the month.
— Q (@Talk2Q) June 20, 2020
Instead of a “bubble”, reports have stated that the NFL is designing “ecosystem” models for each team in the belief that it will help prevent a coronavirus crisis throughout the league.
What we’re trying to do is mitigate risk for everybody inside what I call the ‘team ecosystem,’ which to me means the players, the coaches, the strength and conditioning staff, the medical staff – everybody who is going to be together throughout the course of the season,” Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, told Axios Sports’ Kendall Baker.
Sills brought up the ecosystem after Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and leading voice throughout the pandemic, said football may not be feasible without the “bubble” strategy being implemented by the NBA, NHL, and MLS.
Sills acknowledged that NFL health protocols could evolve quickly once training camps open, as the league will be able to assess how effectively its methods are keeping COVID-19 at bay.
As colleges have their athletes return to campus, some football teams have seen some of the players contract the coronavirus.
The University of Texas announced Thursday that a total of 13 football players have tested positive or “are presumed positive” for COVID-19. The school also said that 10 more players are in self-quarantine after contact-tracing efforts, and another four tested positive for the COVID-19 antibody. A positive antibody test likely means that person previously had the coronavirus.
Recently, Clemson announced that 28 student-athletes tested positive for COVID-19 in June. While the school didn’t provide a breakdown by sport, 23 of those positive tests came from the football team according to The Athletic. The university. said most of the 28 cases have been asymptomatic and no one has required hospitalization.
All Fall sports are preparing for the possibility that a second wave may hit in the fall, as warned by medical experts including Fauci.
While the league’s quarantine setup has widely been referred to as a ‘quarantine bubble,’ NBA commissioner Adam Silver noted Monday that this is a bit of misnomer, as Disney employees will be going in and out of the Disney campus during the NBA’s tenure but will follow testing guidelines.
The NBA has gone out of its way to ensure that health and safety protocols are in place, as well as entertainment options for those who enter the “bubble”.
The NBA will also create an anonymous hotline for people in the bubble to report breaches of rules. Everyone entering the bubble on behalf of the NBA will be required to affirm in writing that they will follow all the rules and anyone who breaches that contract could be disciplined with a “warning, fine, suspension, and/or removal from the campus.”
The issue for the NBA is not all of the players may be on board with entering the bubble, regardless of whether they have health issues or not. A number of players have voiced concerns over how the decision was made — not everyone had a vote — and with regards to the risk factors.
While some of these issues have been worked out, many players are still not sure if they want to participate given all of the recent issues around the world.
As medical experts and Dr. Fauci has warned us, COVID-19 will dictate how and when things open, including sports.