What if a player tests positive during the 2020 MLB season? Commissioner Rob Manfred details plan

Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 MLB season has yet to begin and remains in a state of deep uncertainty. MLB and the Players Association hope to begin playing regular season games by early July, but a number of logistical hurdles remain. 

One of the most troubling hypotheticals related to conducting a 2020 season in the face of a pandemic is what happens if a player tests positive? Manfred during a Thursday night appearance on CNN said that players during the season would be tested frequently. “All of our players would be tested multiple times a week — PCR testing — to determine whether or not they have the virus,” Manfred told Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta during a coronavirus town hall. “That testing would be supplemented, less frequently, by antibody testing, as well.” 

The standard testing will be processed by a lab in Utah that MLB previously used for PED testing. MLB has funded the lab’s COVID-19 testing capabilities. Those test results should be received within 24 hours.

Any players presenting COVID-19 symptoms would also be tested immediately and receive instant results. According to Manfred, temperature checks and symptom analysis will take place every day.

In the event of a positive test, however, Manfred said that “our experts are advising that we don’t need a 14-day quarantine.” Instead, the player testing positive would himself be quarantined until he has two negative tests. As well, MLB would conduct contact tracing, and those individuals coming in contact with the infected player would be immediately tested and receive instant results. All of this means a positive test will not necessarily lead to a 14-day quarantine for that player’s entire team.

Also of note is that Manfred, while emphasizing that the league hopes the “vast, vast majority of players” will agree to play, said even if MLB and the Players’ Association agree to a framework for a 2020 season, players with underlying conditions or those who otherwise object to the risks of playing would not be compelled to do so. Individuals with conditions like diabetes and asthma appear to be prone to developing serious cases of COVID-19 after becoming infected, and this likewise appears to be the case even in younger populations. Manfred noted that the health protocols laid out in MLB’s proposal span more than 80 pages. “At the end of the day, however,” he said, “if there are players with either health conditions or just their own personal doubts, we never force them, try to force them, to come back to work.”

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