MLB is participating in a study to help researchers understand how widespread the coronavirus is, though it won’t tell anything about the game’s return.
MLB players and various team employees are participating in a large study to help researchers understand the spread of the novel coronavirus in the United States, according to reports from ESPN and The Athletic. The study will not, however, give any insight into when the league could return to play.
As many as 10,000 employees from 27 of the league’s 30 clubs will reportedly participate in the study, which is being run by researchers from from Stanford University, USC and the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory.
Jay Bhattacharya, a Stanford professor helping lead the study told The Athletic:
"“This will be the first time we will be able to see how truly prevalent COVID-19 has spread throughout the United States. And instead of it taking years to pull together a study of this scope, especially with stay-at-home orders, MLB has helped us turn it around in a matter of weeks.”"
MLB was selected for the study because it could help provide the researchers with a large, nationwide sample of people in a variety of circumstances – from players to stadium employees – and mobilized quickly to participate. Bhattacharya explained to The Athletic “it was important to include people like part-time ushers and concessionaires, ‘front line people,’ who interact with a large number of people in their jobs.”
The reports were careful to note that the tests are not being taken away from front-line healthcare situations, as these are a different type of test. According to ESPN:
"The test will detect the prevalence of IgM, an antibody produced relatively early in those who have been infected with COVID-19, and IgG, a second form that doctors said lasts long after the infection happens. A positive test would confirm a person did in fact contract coronavirus, even if he or she was asymptomatic.The goal of the study is to get a better sense of the virus’ true infection rate by utilizing a nationwide sample. …The IgG/IgM antibody tests, which SMRTL secured in mid-March before they were FDA-approved, are not similar to PCR tests that detect active COVID-19 and are needed for those who fear they’re infected with the disease and hospital personnel. The antibody test, which doctors hope will become more prevalent in the coming weeks and for the study can be done by participants at home or at team-run testing sites, is suited for research and epidemiological purposes."
While we are still far from any type of clarity on how MLB will return to play, hopefully the league can play a part in helping us understand the pandemic more clearly.