Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued an emergency travel order Thursday that requires travelers visiting Chicago from states experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases to quarantine for two weeks.
By the end of the month, a certain group of travelers — Major League Baseball teams — are scheduled to visit Chicago to play games against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. Likewise, the White Sox will be traveling to play road games in other states, as well, from which they will eventually return.
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But the White Sox say they aren't expecting the new order to impact their upcoming 2020 season.
"Based on our current understanding, we do not expect this to impact our operations as presently planned," a White Sox spokesperson told NBC Sports Chicago on Thursday.
Currently, no states that are home to Central Division teams from either the AL or NL are impacted by Mayor Lightfoot's order. But as has become extremely apparent, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic can change things quickly, and there's no knowing which states might be impacted come Opening Day or at any point during the two-month baseball season.
At the moment, the mayor's order, which goes into effect Monday, applies to visitors from Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah. Landing on that list involves a specific metric. Per the city's website, "a state will be designated if it has a case rate greater than 15 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 resident population, per day, over a 7-day rolling average."
Major League Baseball is imposing a geographic schedule to minimize travel for teams during the shortened, 60-game season. Teams will only play their division rivals and teams from the same geographic division in the other league. The White Sox will play their four AL Central rivals and the five teams from the NL Central.
As of the mayor's order being issued Thursday, the states of Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were not part of the travel order. But every one of those states except Missouri, as well as Illinois, is currently experiencing a week-to-week increase in the number of new cases. The number of new cases is also rising in Iowa, where the White Sox are still on schedule to play in the Field of Dreams game on Aug. 13.
The city has the ability to grant exemptions, though, and Major League Baseball's extensive health and safety measures could come into play. According to the city's website, "the Commissioner of Health may additionally grant an exemption based upon an organization’s or business’ testing and other control policies or in extraordinary circumstances, which warrant an exception from mandatory quarantine."
So the city has the power to let the MLB season, as it pertains to teams traveling in and out of Chicago, to operate as planned. It can allow the Cleveland Indians come to town, or allow the White Sox to return from a trip to Detroit, even if other travelers from Ohio or Michigan, for example, are mandated to quarantine for two weeks.
As mentioned, the evolving status of the pandemic and the response to it, not just in Chicago but across the country, can change everything in a hurry. Major League Baseball faces its own internal hurdles when it comes to safely getting the season off the ground and completing it.
But as the White Sox understand it, there might not be reason to believe Mayor Lightfoot would be throwing a separate wrench into the difficult task of playing the 2020 baseball season.
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