Report: MLB Tightens COVID-19 Protocols Following Outbreaks on Marlins, Cardinals

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As COVID-19 outbreaks among both the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals have caused MLB to make drastic changes to its schedule, the league reportedly has sent revised protocols to its teams on Wednesday.

The new protocols, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, are tougher than the original rules the league established at the onset of the 2020 season.

“Everyone must be accountable for their own conduct because the careless or reckless actions of a few can impact the health and well-being of everyone," the league said in a memo, per Nightengale.

The new protocols threaten suspension for repeated violations of health and safety measures, including failure to wear face coverings when required, Nightengale reports. They require players to wear masks at all times when not on the field, including in the dugout, clubhouse, team hotels and public places while on the road.

The new rules also prohibit players from meeting together in hotel rooms, or gathering in public areas without approval from the team's compliance officer, according to Nightengale. Teams can make a large room at their hotels available for group settings (while social distancing), but while eating or drinking, players are discouraged from talking to each other or even facing one another. Eating and drinking on team planes is allowed, but players are prohibited from talking to one another at the same time.

Players and staff must receive permission from compliance officers if they are to leave the team hotel while on the road, per Nightengale. While at home, players are not allowed to visit bars, lounges, malls or other places that attract large crowds. Players and staff who are in quarantine are not allowed to leave their hotel rooms for any reason.

The memo also details procedures for how games are permitted to be played when a player or staff member has tested positive. 

"The protocols contemplate that games will be permitted to continue when a player or staff member test positive after the contract tracing process is completed,’’ the memo reads, according to Nightengale. “After any persons who had close contact with the infected player or staff member are identified and isolated, the rest of the team is cleared to resume normal operations. We have had numerous situations this season in which a player or staff member on a club tested positive, that individual was isolated, and games continued without any further spread of the virus.’’

The breadth of the outbreak on the Marlins was cited as a reason why that situation was handled differently than others, according to Nightengale. After consulting with health experts, MLB decided postponing Marlins games for more than a week was the best approach to contain the spread of infection.