MLB and the MLB Players Association have jointly announced the results of the initial round of coronavirus testing. The league says that 31 players and seven staff members tested positive out of 3,185 total people tested.
At first glance, the ~1.2% rate of positivity is lower than might have been feared. It does not appear that any previously identified cases are included in the numbers, but the results seem generally promising regardless.
That said, the results also highlight the ongoing challenges. Nineteen of thirty teams had at least one positive test. While the idea was to catch any incoming infections before they could spread, that ratio goes to show the extent to which the virus could yet permeate the league if it’s able to gain any footholds.
Clearly, baseball isn’t out of the woods yet when it comes to successfully staging a 2020 season. But it was possible to imagine a world where a large volume of positive tests would’ve thrown up an immediate roadblock.
There are some caveats here. It is not entirely clear, but stands to reason that the league was testing for active infection. Some players may already have recovered from an infection. When comparing to nationwide numbers, it’s important to understand the distinction. Then there’s the fact that all MLB participants just undertook travel, which could pose risk of later-emerging infections that weren’t yet evident upon arrival.
Having a reasonably manageable starting point certainly represents an important first step. But the real work is yet to come. Preventing the introduction of new sources of infection will require near-universal precautions for the duration of the season.