Following outbreaks of COVID-19 among the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals, MLB has adjusted its health and safety guidelines to better protect against the pandemic.
According to Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal, players and staff will be required to wear face coverings over their nose and mouth at all times in the stadium, except for when on the field beginning today. All teams will have outdoor, covered spaces for visiting teams to limit time spent inside, while all traveling parties will be restricted to essential personnel only.
The new regulations were agreed upon by MLB and the MLBPA. ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reports failure to adhere to the changes may result in teams “prohibited from further participation in the 2020 season.” Rogers spoke with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred earlier Wednesday, explaining the importance of individual responsibility. “Relatively small deviations from the protocols can cause serious problems,” Manfred said. “That’s a reality… Any individual act, you say, ‘Wow, not a big deal,’ but those individual acts can cause problems.”
In tightening the protocols, the league is hoping to avoid another outbreak of multiple players and staffers contracting the virus.Per Rogers, players at home are now prohibited from bars, malls, and large gatherings. Compliance officers must give permission before players can leave hotels on the road as well.
MLB is trying to operate its season without a bubble, and Manfred may face criticism over why the league waited so long establishing these restrictions. For now, the commissioner hopes these changes will allow baseball to complete a 60-game regular season.
Manfred pointed to the 28 clubs who have followed the previous rules without incident or outbreak in showing the league can operate safely in a pandemic. Yet the teams who have dealt with a spike in infections proved it’ll take more than best intentions to keep the sport safe.
“We believe, in the two serious outbreaks, that we can identify deviations from the protocols that resulted in the situations that we had,” Manfred said. “The key is vigilance. It’s vigilance on the part of the commissioner’s office, club officials, players and everyone involved in the game.”
MLB’s decision is another case of better-late-than-never. Hopefully, these newly instituted protocols will decrease the chances of more outbreaks, but it’s also the players’ duty to fully adhere to the safety guidelines and combat the problem; on & off the field.
|Image||Erik Drost on Flickr|