Phillies close Florida facility after 5 players, 3 staffers test positive for COVID-19

In addition, 20 major- and minor-league players and 10 other staff members are awaiting results of tests. Eight staffers have tested negative, the team said.

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The Phillies have closed their training facility in Clearwater, Florida, after several players and staffers tested positive for COVID-19.

The Phillies have closed their training facility in Clearwater, Florida, after several players and staffers tested positive for COVID-19.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

As Major League Baseball and the MLB Players’ Association aim to close a relatively small financial gap and agree to play the 2020 season, the sport was reminded that the chances of safely staging a season amid a pandemic may be far more harrowing than settling monetary issues.

Five Philadelphia Phillies players and three staff members who gathered for workouts at their Clearwater, Florida, training facility have tested positive for COVID-19, the team confirmed Friday. In addition, 20 major- and minor-league players and 10 other staff members are awaiting results of tests. Eight staffers have tested negative, the team said.

The club’s facility has been closed.

“The Phillies are committed to the health and welfare of our players and staff as our highest priority,” managing partner John Middleton said, “and as a result of these tests, all facilities in Clearwater have been closed until medical authorities are confident the virus is under control and our facilities are disenfected.”

The report comes roughly a week before teams hope to gather at either home stadiums or spring-training facilities for a second “spring training” in advance of a shortened season that would begin sometime in late July. That’s contingent on MLB and the union striking an agreement on player pay — as well as health protocols.

The Phillies’ cluster of positive tests — none of the players and staff have been hospitalized, according to NBC Sports Philadelphia — illustrates why the latter may be more complex than it seems.

In the days following MLB’s March 12 postponement of the season due to the novel coronavirus, teams began closing their spring facilities, and the Phillies’ facility underwent a deep cleansing, according to NBC Sports Philadelphia.

As states slowly began re-opening, MLB teams have gradually reopened their stadiums and spring sites, limiting workouts and barring players from areas such as the weight room. The Tampa Bay Rays opened up Tropicana Field — about 22 miles from the Phillies’ Clearwater site — in late May and more than a dozen players have been working out there on a semi-regular basis.

But the past two weeks have brought massive spikes in COVID-19 positive tests to the state of Florida and specifically Pinellas County, home to Tropicana Field and spring sites for the Phillies and Blue Jays, who were expected to play home games at their revamped spring site in Dunedin if Canadian quarantine restrictions prevented them from playing in Toronto.

Florida reported 3,822 new cases on Friday, setting a single-day high for the third time in four days. Pinellas County also set a new high with 266 reported cases; adjacent Hillsborough County, home to the Yankees’ Tampa spring training site, set a single-day high with 372 cases.

That continues a decidedly untimely trend for MLB in its hopes to stage a season as cases have spiked in Florida, Arizona and Texas — the first two the site of all 30 spring training facilities.

Read more at usatoday.com

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