12:03pm: Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the outbreak has spread to multiple family members of the five players and three staffers.
11:35am: The Phillies issued the following statement:
In response to published reports and the questions that those reports have raised, the Phillies are confirming that 5 players and 3 staff members working at the club’s Clearwater facility have tested positive for Covid-19. The first confirmed case occurred this past Tuesday, June 16. In addition, 8 staff members have tested negative for the virus, while 12 staff members and 20 players (both major league and minor league players) living in the Clearwater area are in the process of being tested and are awaiting the results of those tests. … In terms of the implications of this outbreak on the Phillies’ 2020 season, the club declines comment, believing that it is too early to know.
Owner John Middleton added in a personal statement that the team is “committed to the health and welfare of our players, coaches and staff as our highest priority” and, as a result, the team’s spring complex in Clearwater has been closed indefinitely.
11:00am: Five players and three staffers at the Phillies’ Spring Training complex in Clearwater, Fla., have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent days, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports reports. None of the cases have required hospitalization to this point, although the rapid manner in which the outbreak spread through camp even without a full roster and staff present, certainly illustrates the risks and complications that could arise even if MLB and the Players Association are actually able to hammer out an agreement. Notably, Salisbury adds that a “significant number of team personnel” are still waiting on results, so further positive tests are possible.
Phillies players have been working out at Clearwater’s Spectrum Field for several weeks, but Salisbury writes that despite limited group sizes and strict safety precautions, the virus quickly spread through Phillies camp.
It’s obviously good news that none of the positive tests have required hospitalization, but the sheer volume of positive cases is still an ominous sign. An outbreak like this during the regular season would require quarantine for a substantial portion of the affected active roster, and most teams would have at least a couple of older members of the coaching staff in proximity to the outbreak. The potential for spreading the virus to the opposing team at a time when multiple members of the roster are perhaps playing asymptomatically also can’t be overlooked.
The outbreak at Phillies camp comes at a time when the broad focus has been on the exhausting series of strategic leaks and vaguely worded statements from MLB and the MLBPA as ownership and players butt heads over the length of the season. So much emphasis has been placed on the financial battle that the yet-to-be-agreed-upon health/safety protocols and the very real potential for COVID-19 outbreaks in close-quarters clubhouse settings have, to some extent, faded from the discussion in recent days.
The latest report out of Florida abruptly thrusts that portion of the debate back to the forefront. And with cases on the rise in key states like Florida, Arizona, Texas and California, the potential for similar instances is prevalent. It was never realistic to expect that there would be no positive tests or even team-wide outbreaks. The goal was to limit such occurrences and prevent mass-scale infections. Still, it’s discouraging that a limited group which represents a fraction of the group that would be gathering for a full-season schedule has produced a rather substantial number of cases. If nothing else, the Phillies’ Clearwater outbreak seems likely to cause all parties to revisit even the elements of the health and safety protocols on which they’ve generally agreed, so as to ensure they are sufficient for both sides.