But even that may not be enough to keep the game safe from an outbreak, an expert warns.
As USA Today reported, the league sent players and the Major League Baseball Players Association its “2020 Operations Manual,” which includes a number of measures meant to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The rules would forbid players from taking showers in the locker room after the game, require social distancing in the dugout, ban spitting and gum chewing, and encourage players to keep distance on the field as much as possible.
The plan is seen as the latest attempt from MLB to start a season that was suspended in March and has already gone through a number of different proposals for how it could return.
But Dr. Bernard Camins, the medical director for infection prevention at New York City’s Mount Sinai Health System, said the plan will only work as well as the rest of the country in preventing an outbreak. He told Newsday that while the league and players may take careful precautions, if the coronavirus is still spreading rapidly in any areas of the country, it will mean the players are still at risk.
“Is it going to be successful if the rest of the community or the rest of the country is still experiencing continued outbreaks?” Camins said. “Then what will happen is you’re going to have baseball players who will come back positive. And even if they’re not going to get sick — hopefully — everybody who was exposed to that person will be quarantined, right?”
He added that any infection could effectively shut down the league, as guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call for anyone who has been in contact with an exposed person to go into quarantine for two weeks. He noted that the Korean Baseball Organization has built in its own contingency plan to halt the league for three weeks in the event of an outbreak, even though South Korea has a much more effective testing program in place than that in the U.S.
The coronavirus may not be the only thing keeping baseball from returning this year. The start of the MLB season is also complicated by the ongoing negotiations between players and owners on pay, with players initially agreeing to reduced salaries. Owners recently asked for a revenue-sharing plan that has been met with resistance by players.