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Mets not overly concerned after Marlins' high rate of positive tests for COVID-19

Mets manager Luis Rojas, second from left, looks

Mets manager Luis Rojas, second from left, looks out from the dugout during the ninth inning against the Braves in an MLB game at Citi Field on Sunday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

BOSTON — As coronavirus chaos enveloped the baseball world, again, the Mets went about their business as usual Monday and said they weren’t too concerned about it.

Manager Luis Rojas said he is still optimistic about MLB completing its planned 60-game pandemic season, because the health and safety protocols have “been pretty good.” Those protocols, however, did not prevent a COVID-19 outbreak in the Marlins’ traveling party during the first series of the season or the postponement of a pair of games on the fifth day of the season.

“You gotta get concerned when we see something like that happening,” Rojas said. “But at the same time, you gotta be optimistic because [of] this protocol put together by MLB and the way we’ve been operating as well, following the protocol.”

The Marlins learned Monday that seven more players and two staff members tested positive for COVID-19, after a season-opening series in which Miami lost four regular players to positive tests.

That forced MLB to postpone the Marlins’ home opener against the Orioles, as well as Yankees-Phillies in Philadelphia. The Marlins played in Philadelphia over the weekend and remained there, quarantining, Monday.

Rojas said he has talked periodically with Mets players during the past month-plus “about the reality of something like this happening.”

“We're hoping that it's just a hiccup along the way and we'll learn from it and hopefully we can just put it in the past,” Brandon Nimmo said.

A tangential Mets concern: The Marlins visited Atlanta last week for two exhibition games against the Braves. Then the Braves came to Citi Field to open the regular season against the Mets.

The Mets are scheduled to fly to Atlanta, a coronavirus hot spot, late Thursday night for a four-game series starting Friday.

“We just played the Braves and there's nothing that we can think of that’s following us right now,” Rojas said.

Nimmo said he wasn’t worried about potential exposure via the Braves because “we would know by now,” because the Mets were tested Friday and Sunday.

The current understanding of the new coronavirus, though, is that the delay between exposure and testing positive could be up to two weeks. That makes it impossible to know with certainty.

“Probably a few people would be showing symptoms by now,” Nimmo said. “Seems like everybody's here and everybody's healthy. So I'm not too worried about it, but you never know. Sometimes this thing can be asymptomatic and could show up on a later test result. Time will tell but I'm not too concerned right now.”

Nimmo said he couldn’t help but wonder if the Marlins’ outbreak was caused by a breach of protocol.

“It takes all 30 teams doing it the right way,” he said. “I can’t really speak to what the Marlins are doing off the field or on the field. All I know is what we’re doing.”

When he found out about the Marlins, Nimmo wondered: What does it mean for the season? What does it mean for the Mets?

“For the most part you have those questions, right at first,” Nimmo said. “And then when we found out everyone was OK and we can continue life on as usual, the new normal for us.”

The Mets won’t ask players to wear masks when on the field — which is not part of MLB’s mandates — but Rojas reiterated that the Mets are taking the health mandates seriously, sometimes going above and beyond.

In taking six buses to Boston late Sunday night, for example, the Mets limited capacity to 10 people per bus. A further precaution: They put five players and five staff members on each bus.

“So that if a bus happened to get it, only maybe four or five guys [players] would get it,” Nimmo said.

But the Mets aren’t perfect. They have not stuck to 6 feet of social distancing while in the dugout during games, and on at least one occasion — Yoenis Cespedes’ homer on Opening Day — formed a celebratory mob, high-fiving and patting him on the head and butt.

“Man, if it happened to spread that way, then I guess so be it,” Nimmo said. “I honestly think we're taking a lot of precautions we need to take. I just don’t see where having a high-five or [not] wearing a mask during the game would stop that from happening. Nope, I'm feeling pretty good about still going out there and playing the game the right way and having fun with it. We'll do that until told otherwise.”

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