Major League Baseball, which has had at least 12 major-league players and staff members test positive for COVID-19, has decided to immediately shut down all of their spring training facilities in Arizona and Florida, a high-ranking official with direct knowledge of the decision told USA TODAY Sports.
MLB has ordered all of the facilities to undergo a deep clean and will require all players and staff members to undergo testing before being able to use the facilities again when they open.
The person spoke to USA TODAY Sport on the condition of anonymity since MLB had not released a formal statement.
There were five Philadelphia Phillies players and a player from the Houston Astros who tested positive this week, with three spring-training facilities closing Friday.
“The Phillies are committed to the health and welfare of our players and staff as our highest priority,” Phillies owner John Middleton said, “and as a result of these tests, all facilities in Clearwater [Florida] have been closed until medical authorities are confident the virus is under control and our facilities are disinfected.’’
The Toronto Blue Jays and San Francisco Giants also closed their respective facilities in Dunedin, Florida, and Scottsdale, Arizona, after several players reported experiencing symptoms.
The past two weeks have brought spikes in COVID-19 positive tests in Florida, Arizona and Texas, home of five teams. There currently are 20 states that have had a recent surge of positive tests.
The timing of the outbreak comes at a time when Major League Baseball is scheduled to resume spring training in the next two weeks. Commissioner Rob Manfred is expected to mandate a season on Monday if the owners and players don’t reach an agreement. The owners want a 60-game season while the players are seeking a 70-game season.
MLB is adamant that they want the regular season to end Sept. 27 with the World Series concluding before November for fear that a second wave of COVID-19 could cancel the postseason, costing clubs $787 million in postseason TV revenue.
MLB and the union are finalizing the health and safety protocols that MLB delivered in a 67-page manual last month. The players will be tested several times a week and will follow strict guidelines, requiring social distancing even in the clubhouse and dugout, prohibiting spitting, using ride share services, or even venturing outside the team hotel on the road. The schedule also has teams playing solely in their geographical regions, averting cross-country flights.
It’s possible that the postseason will be played at a neutral site, or even a protective bubble to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
If MLB announces a season on Monday, players are expected to appear for spring training on June 29, with three days of testing, before training for three weeks. Teams have the choice to train in their home city or their spring-training sites, but with the surge of COVID-19 in Arizona and Florida, virtually all teams will train in their home ballpark.