After outbreaks on two teams that forced drastic changes to their schedule, Major League Baseball has adjusted its protocols, and threatened suspensions for those who do not comply.
According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, MLB issued a six-page memo to all teams last night which outlined new procedures for dealing with COVID-19.
“We recognize that these changes place additional burdens and restrictions on players and staff,” the memo read. “But if we desire to play, they are necessary to limit infections and, if someone does test positive, to keep the virus from spreading. The behavior of every covered individual affects the players and staff on his or her team, and on other clubs as well.
“Everyone must be accountable for their own conduct because the careless or reckless actions of a few can impact the health and well-being of everyone.”
The memo also warned of serious punishment.
“Any covered individuals — whether players or club staff — who are found to have repeatedly or flagrantly violated the protocols, including refusing to wear a face covering when required and reminded to do so,” the memo reads, “risks being prohibited from further participation in the 2020 season and postseason.”
The new protocols include a requirement for everyone to wear masks at all times, except for players when they are on the field. That includes all coaches and umpires, and also requires them to all wear masks in the hotel and in public places on the road.
Clubs are also required to reduce the size of traveling parties to only the truly essential, with the team compliance officer required to make sure they’re not dragging extraneous people around. The policies also outline changes to policies for travel, to prohibit gatherings of people in common spaces, eating near each other, and to create more space in planes and buses. It also prohibits players from visiting bars, lounges, malls, and other places where people gather.
Having 33 players from the Marlins and Cardinals test positive necessitated the new measures, but also underscores the difficulty of trying to keep players safe from the virus without playing in a bubble like the NBA (where no players have tested positive).