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Inside MLB's pandemic plan to stay safe at home ... or on the road

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred answers questions at a

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred answers questions at a news conference at the owners meetings in Orlando, Florida, on Feb. 6, 2020. Credit: AP/John Raoux

No spitting. No showers. No high-fives.

And it gets much more complicated from there.

MLB spelled out their detailed vision of how the sport needs to function amid this pandemic in a 67-page operations manual, obtained by Newsday, that was presented to the Players Association on Friday.

Assuming the two sides can agree on everything else, particularly the onerous matter of player salaries, the logistics of carrying out an 82-game schedule while dealing with this COVID-19 outbreak make for an extremely daunting task. The guidelines mapped out and the procedures to follow are exhausting.

Some are basic, such as mandatory mask-wearing for all non-playing personnel in the dugout and social distancing whenever possible, with fielders encouraged to move away from baserunners during breaks in the action. But there are many changes — big and small — to nearly every aspect involved with the daily life of a team.

The testing protocols, as Manfred suggested earlier in the week, are very extensive and rely on the use of MLB’s own Utah-based lab that has been transformed from a drug-testing facility to one that now screens for COVID-19. MLB will institute “regular” tests multiple times weekly — not daily — of all players, managers, coaches and umpires, along with other “essential” staff members.

If a player does test positive, he must self-isolate, but others at risk for exposure will not be automatically quarantined for 14 days. According to the protocols, those who may have been in contact with the infected person will be monitored and a team physician will determine who should be tested.

Below are some highlights from the 67-page manual, according to their listed categories, boiled down to easier digestible form.   

MEDICAL AND TESTING 

-- Intake screening at start of spring training, with temperature check, body fluid sample and blood sample for testing.

-- Asymptomatic people will have their temperature and other symptoms checked and recorded at least twice per day.

-- PCR (active virus) testing multiple times per week, antibody tests monthly. 

-- Individuals with temperature at or above 100 degrees, or known contact with confirmed COVID-19 case, subject to immediate rapid test.

-- To minimize possible transmission in case of infection, identify players and employees who have come in contract with infected person. Team physician determines who should be rapid tested. Disinfect all club-controlled areas.

-- All family members have access to PPEs, education and regular testing.

-- For identified high-risk individuals, separate work rooms, entrances and less-crowded travel arrangements.

SPRING TRAINING

-- Reporting dates staggered, and for teams working out at major-league ballparks, workouts also staggered to prevent overcrowding. 

-- Maximum 50 players 

-- Three phases: small group workouts, larger groups, limited games.

-- For heat concerns in Florida and Arizona, games start between 7 and 9 p.m. local time.

FACILITY

-- Avoid any physical interactions (such as high-fives, fist bumps, or hugs) while at facilities.

-- Communal water and sports drink coolers prohibited. No spitting, smokeless tobacco use or sunflower seeds in restricted areas.

-- Wash/sanitize hands after equipment use or each half inning.

-- Conduct meetings virtually when possible or use social distancing on field. 

-- Masks must be worn, except for players in dugout or on field.

-- Showering should be discouraged. Saunas, steam rooms, hydrotherapy pools prohibited.

-- Lockers six feet apart, as well as personnel in dugout. Empty stands behind dugout used for extra space.

-- Discourage the use of indoor batting cages.

-- Buffet-style and communal food spreads are prohibited. 

-- Dugout phones disinfected after each use.

ON-FIELD OPERATIONS

-- No pregame exchange of lineup cards.

-- Standing at least six feet apart during national anthem.

-- Pitchers should bring own rosin bag to mound.

-- Spitting is prohibited.

-- No mascots. Sorry, Mr. Met. 

TRAVEL

-- Players are not officially quarantined, but members of the traveling party cannot leave the hotel without prior approval. Only immediate family members are permitted to visit rooms.

-- Whenever possible, teams should use smaller airports.

-- Lower floors in hotels to make stairways more accessible.

-- Dedicated dining areas in hotels; no public restaurants.

-- Rideshares such as Uber and Lyft are discouraged.

MLB spells out potential losses

Player salaries have been the primary point of contention between the two sides, and MLB informed the union this week that if they were paid on a strictly prorated basis — absent fans in the stands — the losses would be catastrophic: amounting to an average of $640,000 per game, according to a document obtained by The Associated Press.

The 12-page document, titled “Economics of Playing Without Fans in Attendance,”  details the financial hardship MLB is facing without gate-generated revenue, which accounts for 40 percent of its overall income (and as much as 51 percent at the local level). According to the report, the Yankees were atop that list, with a projected $312 million in losses, followed by the Dodgers ($232M), Mets ($214M), Cubs ($199M) and Red Sox ($188M).

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