As Major League Baseball prepares to start its season, a massive set of coronavirus test results shows that 28 out of the league's 30 teams have had a player or staff member test positive.
So far, 71 players and 12 staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus, MLB announced Friday.
When teams convened for training camps at the beginning of the month, the league carried out intake screenings. Some 58 players and eight staff members tested positive. That's a rate of 1.8%, with more than 3,700 samples tested.
And since they arrived, players and staff have been retested multiple times each week. Thirteen additional players and four staff members were found to be infected.
The results highlight the challenges of launching a season amid a global pandemic. But Dr. Gary Green, MLB's medical director, said in an interview with MLB Network that league officials are encouraged by the results.
"It means that most of our players and staff did conform to social distancing, wearing masks and avoiding high-risk situations," Green said. "I'm actually kind of pleased it's as low as that."
He noted that the positivity rate of the league's tests is lower than the current seven-day U.S. national average, which as of early Friday was about 8.4%. The positivity rate of the MLB's intake and monitoring tests has been 0.7%.
MLB has converted a lab in Utah that it previously used for drug testing to handle the massive number of coronavirus tests. It has been running about 2,000 tests per day since it started a little over a week ago, Green said, and uses a method that analyzes players' saliva.
In addition to the testing requirements, MLB has unveiled extensive health and safety procedures — collected into a plan that is 113 pages long, as NPR's Tom Goldman reported.
Rules include physical distancing as much as possible and using personal equipment. And during games, spitting will not be allowed and players are threatened with immediate ejection if they come within 6 feet of an umpire or opponent during an argument.
"While testing is certainly important, it's only one part of the procedure. So I would consider testing as the icing on the cake," Green said. "Really, the whole league depends on the ability of each individual player to follow these guidelines."
Seattle Mariners outfielder Braden Bishop echoed that sentiment in an interview with Goldman, saying that team members are trying to police each other's behavior.
"I think the biggest problem is you could put in the greatest protocols ever, but if you don't have full compliance by every single guy and every single employee, it puts everyone at risk," Bishop said. "You don't want one of those serious cases [of COVID-19] to be part of our group."
The 2020 regular season is scheduled to start on July 23. It will be 60 games long – less than half as many games in a usual season.