Five Phillies players who had been training at the team’s facility in Clearwater, Florida have tested positive for coronavirus in recent days, multiple sources tell NBC Sports Philadelphia.
In addition to the five players, three staff members have tested positive. The identities of those infected is not known.
A significant number of team personnel are awaiting test results so it’s possible the outbreak could worsen.
None of the eight people who have been infected have been hospitalized and the virus appears to be under control in all of them.
The Phillies' spring training complex in Clearwater has been closed for the time being.
"The first confirmed case occurred this past Tuesday, June 16," the Phillies said in a statement.
"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."
Managing partner John Middleton added:
"The Phillies are committed to the health and welfare of our players, coaches and staff as our highest priority, and as a result of these confirmed tests, all facilities in Clearwater have been closed indefinitely to all players, coaches and staff and will remain closed until medical authorities are confident that the virus is under control and our facilities are disinfected."
The outbreak comes at a time when Major League Baseball and the Players Association are trying to settle a financial dispute that would allow a shortened season to commence in July.
This is the first known outbreak in MLB and the commissioner's office is aware of it. It is not known if the situation will affect negotiations with the union. Both MLB and the union have consistently stated that matters of health supersede all others as they try to restart the game.
The Phillies closed their Spectrum Field facility in mid-March when the sporting world shut down because of the COVID-19 crisis. The facility received a deep and thorough cleansing. Players rehabilitating from injury were allowed to continue their recovery work under the supervision of a few of the team’s athletic trainers and staff.
Over the past few weeks, the team allowed several more players to begin working out at the facility. Strict health and safety precautions were taken and group sizes were limited. Still, there was an outbreak.
The outbreak comes as numbers of cases are spiking all over Florida. While it's possible for teams to supervise players at a ballpark, it’s not possible to fully prevent them from interacting with a community that is considered open. This remains a public problem and baseball is a small piece of that.
“I’m not trying to scare anyone, but this is real and it spreads quickly and easily and people need to know,” said one person who knows some of the Phillies personnel who has tested positive.
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