Major League Baseball has signed on to become a major part of a massive research project designed to give scientists a better picture of how widespread COVID-19 is throughout the country.
As many as 10,000 people, according to ESPN, are expected to take part in testing, in which 27 of baseball’s 30 MLB teams are expected to participate. It will include a variety of people, including players, front office staff, concession workers and others.
The testing is being done by Stanford, USC and the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory. A 10-minute testing kit will detect the presence of antibodies that would indicate whether people had contracted the virus, even if they were asymptomatic. The goal of the study is to get a better picture of the virus’ true infection rate.
"This is the first study of national scope where we're going to get a read on a large number of communities throughout the United States to understand how extensive the spread of the virus has been," said Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of medicine at Stanford University who will assess the data gathered this week and write a peer-reviewed paper he hopes to publish as early as next week. "This will be the very first of those. Why MLB versus other employers? I've reached out to others, but MLB moved by far the fastest. They've been enormously cooperative and flexible. We're trying to set up a scientific study that would normally take years to set up, and it's going to be a matter of weeks."
And this is not a case where tests are being diverted from those who need them more urgently.
"These tests are absolutely not getting redirected from any kind of frontline testing programs," said Dr. Daniel Eichner, the president of SMRTL, who has worked extensively with MLB and other sports leagues on antidoping testing.
"MLB did not partner with us for any selfish reason to get their sport back sooner. They jumped in for public health policy. That was their intention and their only intention."