A University of Stanford study of 5,603 MLB employees showed that 0.7% tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. 60 people tested positive, but that number was adjusted to account for the possibility of false positives/negatives. There have been no deaths among that group.
The study, conducted in mid-April, distributed testing kits to employees of 27 MLB teams. 5,754 were completed, and 5,603 respondents filled out an accompanying survey. It’s important to mention that roughly 70% of those who tested positive displayed no symptoms, which suggests that the true incidence of the virus across the country is considerably higher than one might assume.
Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of the University of Stanford, the lead researcher in the study, said that he was surprised to discover such a small number, but warns that those numbers could simply indicate that we are still in the early stages of the epidemic.
For what it’s worth, the Angels, Mets, and Yankees displayed the highest rates of infection, though it’s notable that even those rates were lower than their respective counties.
Drawing conclusions from these results will be tricky, especially considering that the body of test subjects consisted of primarily white collar employees—obviously, it’s not a sample that’s representative of nationwide demographics, and that could partially explain the low prevalence rate.
According to Molly Knight of The Athletic, an MLB spokesperson stated that the league wouldn’t consider the results of this study in deliberating if and when to begin play for the 2020 season. So while we’re quick to make assumptions about what these results tell us, there’s no reason to believe that this development brings us any closer to, or further from, the return of baseball.
Of course, the purpose of the study wasn’t the league’s readiness to resume play; rather, Bhattacharya and company hoped to examine where exactly we stand in the timeline of the infection, giving consideration to several different metropolitan areas across the country.