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An expert weighs in on the May Plan

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MLB’s proposed plan to play baseball in May has the potential for great disaster

MLB: Spring Training-Los Angeles Dodgers at Chicago White Sox Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

A lot has already been written about Major League’s Baseball May Plan. There’s not much more to add to the actual ideas touted in MLB’s disastrous idea to bring baseball to Arizona in May. However, no matter how much I may know about baseball the fact of the matter is that I’m not a virologist, epidemiologist, or public health expert. I’m a Paramedic by trade, which gives me a base to work from, but it leaves me considerably shy of possessing the knowledge and training needed to truly understand COVID-19 and the science behind bringing big-league ball back in May.

As a society, we’ve stopped turning to experts. I’m not sure why that is, but it’s become integrated into our society that instead of waiting for experts to chime in we need to get our take out there as quickly as possible. Sometimes this isn’t a big deal but when it comes to a virus that has killed tens of thousands it’s best to check in with people more in the know about the tenability of MLB starting its season in the May Arizona heat. To that end, I sought out and bugged noted public health expert Dr. Bruce Y. Lee for his opinion on MLB’s possible plan.

First and foremost, according to Dr. Lee as long as the virus continues to circulate within our communities it is important to maintain social distancing. That right there puts a pin in the balloon that is The May Plan. No matter what measures MLB may have in mind their plan would still create a scenario where players, coaches, umpires, and more find themselves closer than the recommended social distance. MLB can say they have taken measures to cut down on these occurrences, but all it takes is one single occurrence for transmission of the virus to happen.

The timeline of MLB’s proposed plan represents another obstacle. There are cycles to the life of a virus. It’s not as simple as overcoming an outbreak and moving on. As Dr. Lee states about a May start date, “That seems early. Even places in the U.S. that have been hit the worst so far haven’t reached their peaks yet.” The peak of a viral pandemic is important because that is when the virus is at its worst. Hitting that mark does not mean the virus is gone, and if MLB starts playing in Arizona when Arizona itself, along with other pockets of America, have not yet hit their peaks or are in the middle of a recurrence of an outbreak then that could spell disaster for everyone in Arizona, MLB associated or not.

According to Dr. Lee, a key ingredient in any 2020 MLB season would be the practice of good hand hygiene and regular disinfecting of surfaces. Think about that sentence for a second and ask yourself if you can envision any scenario in which MLB is able to accomplish that while games are being played that involve real live human beings? Are there going to be portable sinks on the fields so that players can wash their hands any time they have any interaction with another player, a bat, a baseball, an umpire, etc.? How about the state of the baseball when a double play is being turned? Is Didi Gregorius going to keep a pack of disinfectant wipes in his pocket so that he can disinfect the baseball before he reaches into his glove to grab the ball and finish the second leg of the double play? Of course, he isn’t, we all know he isn’t, and that’s why we also know that MLB’s plan is foolhardy and stupid.

I personally found the expanded rosters part of the plan to be the most ridiculous. MLB doesn’t think it will be necessary to quarantine players if a teammate, or opponent they just played against, starts showing symptoms of the virus. A study Dr. Lee cited found that 17.9% of those infected with COVID-19 never end up developing symptoms. Recent reports out of China have them locking their country down yet again because they can’t stop the spread of the virus from asymptomatic carriers. Then there’s MLB in all their genius who think that the answer to a player in their May scenario showing symptoms is simply to call up a minor leaguer to take the player’s spot and expose even more people to the virus.

The legitimate resumption of affiliated baseball is dependent on the availability of testing. This is fairly common knowledge and most people who aren’t just thinking of the money they could make from putting on a cursed baseball season understand this. The more people we test the more we are able to recognize the efforts we need to take to combat the virus and whether or not we can start to relax social distancing. MLB’s plan seems to think that widespread testing will be in place. That flies in the face of all logic, especially when reports now have the United States government pulling back on paying for testing sites to be open and insurance companies reverting making to making people pay for the tests. Those two elements taken together mean that fewer people are going to be tested than need to be in order for social distancing measures to be relaxed.

No one wants to be a spoilsport, myself included. Every one of us wants to see baseball return. That doesn’t mean we want to see people endangered and the virus to be allowed to continue to spread just so that MLB owners can try and salvage their bottom lines for the 2020 season. I get why people don’t want to listen to myself and other writers on this topic. We are, after all, merely baseball writers. Well, experts like Dr. Lee have weighed in and the experts say that MLB should wait until it is actually safe for the game to return. MLB needs to listen to those experts because no game is worth people’s lives.