Major League Baseball said Monday that “unforeseen delays” caused some teams not to receive results of their COVID-19 player tests in a timely manner over the Fourth of July weekend.
“Our plan required extensive delivery and shipping services, including proactive special accommodations to account for the holiday weekend,” a statement from MLB read. “The vast majority of those deliveries occurred without incident and allowed the protocols to function as planned. Unfortunately, several situations included unforeseen delays. We have addressed the delays caused by the holiday weekend and do not expect a recurrence.”
As a result of the delay in results, the Washington Nationals canceled their scheduled workout on Monday as a precaution, as did the Houston Astros, who lost to the Nationals in the 2019 World Series. The Los Angeles Angels delayed their workout to make sure test administrators and collectors showed up after not reporting on Sunday.
Nationals president and general manager Mike Rizzo said all players and staff were tested Friday and without timely and accurate testing deemed it unsafe “for us to continue with Summer Camp.”
Rizzo called on Major League Baseball to quickly “resolve issues with their process and their lab.”
“Seventy-two hours later, we have yet to receive the results of those tests,” Rizzo said. “We cannot have our players and staff work at risk. Therefore, we have canceled our team workout scheduled for this morning. We will not sacrifice the health and safety of our players, staff and their families. ... Major League Baseball needs to work quickly to resolve the issues with their process and their lab. Otherwise, Summer Camp and the 2020 Season are at risk.”
In its statement, MLB said issues were being addressed.
“We commend the affected Clubs that responded properly by canceling workouts,” the statement read.
“We appreciate the great cooperation from the players as well as the hard work of the Clubs and many internal and external staff members under these challenging circumstances. The process has not been without some unforeseen difficulties, which are being addressed with the service providers that are essential to the execution of the protocols. It is important to be mindful that nearly all of the individuals have been tested as planned. The health and safety of our players and employees will remain our highest priorities.”
Major League Baseball said 3,740 people went through intake screening from June 27 through July 3 and that its lab had returned results for 3,654 -- 98 percent of them -- by Sunday afternoon. Most were returned the next day.
The remaining 2 percent of the results were expected Monday afternoon.
Astros general manager James Click said he was hopeful the system would get a fine tuning.
“Players and staff continue to participate fully in the screening and testing protocols while we await these results,” he said. “Despite these delays over the holiday weekend, we’re optimistic that the process will be ironed out and we’ll be back on the field and ready to compete for a championship soon.”
Two Nationals players tested positive for coronavirus -- swabs were taken two days earlier on Wednesday for those players -- creating urgency to receive results for players who have been in contact with those individuals.
Rizzo’s tone echoed Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle, who said Sunday that the team still hasn’t received promised personal protective equipment -- such as masks and gloves -- for at-risk individuals. Doolittle said he was stunned not to have test results. He plans to opt out of the 2020 season if the coronavirus pandemic becomes a strain on his mental health.
“I think I’m planning on playing,” Doolittle told reporters on Sunday during a Zoom call. “But if at any point I start to feel unsafe, if it starts to take a toll on my mental health with all these things we have to worry about and kind of this cloud of uncertainty hanging over everything, then I’ll opt out. But for now, I’ve prepared for the last three months like I’m going to play. I feel ready to go.”
The 33-year-old Doolittle also pointed out the irony of starting the season later this month with the coronavirus outbreak still out of control.
“We’re trying to bring baseball back during a pandemic that’s killed (nearly) 130,000 people (in the United States),” Doolittle said. “We’re way worse off as a country than where we were in March when we shut this thing down.
“And like, look at where other developed countries are in their response to this. We haven’t done any of the things that other countries have done to bring sports back. Sports are like the reward of a functional society, and we’re trying to just bring it back, even though we’ve taken none of the steps to flatten the curve, whatever you want to say.”
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