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MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred Says League Is Using Utah Lab For COVID-19 Testing

Commissioner of Baseball Robert D. Manfred Jr. speaks at a press conference on youth initiatives hosted by Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association at Citi Field on June 16, 2016 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said that the league is using a Utah-based lab for COVID-19 testing and antibody testing as it puts together plans to start the 2020 baseball season.

Manfred detailed MLB’s use of the lab and the league’s protocols to combat the coronavirus pandemic during a CNN town hall interview with Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

“We have an arrangement with a lab in Utah that has historically done our Minor League drug testing. We paid — made an investment to convert them over to do the testing that we need in order to play. We have an established set of healthcare professionals that have done collections for drug testing that we’ll use for this same purpose,” Manfred said. “The lab in Utah has assured us of a 24-hour turnaround on all our tests. So we feel comfortable that by doing multiple tests a week and trying to minimize the turnaround time, we’re doing everything humanly possible to make sure that the players are safe.”

As Major League Baseball was preparing to start the 2020 season, the coronavirus pandemic in the United States shut down major league sports in the country and throughout the world.

Months later, the commissioner and MLB are trying to salvage the season with a start this summer.

Manfred said that the league has set up health protocols that “are about 80 pages in length” as is prepares to bring players back to work.

‘We have developed extensive protocols. A key to those is frequent testing,” Manfred said. “All of our players would be tested multiple times a week. PCR testing to determine whether or not they have the virus. That testing would be supplemented less frequently by antibody testing as well.”

In addition to frequent testing, the commissioner said that MLB would perform temperature checks and symptom analysis for every individual “each and every day.”

Along with these protocols, MLB won’t force players to come back to work. Whether that decision is based on a health-related condition or personal preference, Manfred said that players are welcomed to return when they feel ready.

One concern of baseball’s return to action is in regard to what happens if a player or employee tests positive for COVID-19. The commissioner said that MLB already has “contingency plans” in place if that occurs.

“Yeah, we are talking about all of our teams playing,” Manfred said. “I’ve talked to our governors in the 18 states where we play. Assuming we try to play some games in the first half of July, most governors expressed hope that we’d be able to use facilities, of course, initially without fans but we do have contingency plans if in fact there was a problem in a particular market. We have contingency plans where that team could play somewhere else, at least temporarily.”

The commissioner laid out the steps the league would take if MLB player tests positive during the season:

  • No 14-day quarantine for the entire team
  • The individual that tested positive will be removed from the rest of the group
  • A quarantine arrangement enacted in each facility and in each city affected
  • Contact tracing for the individual who tested positive
  • Point of care testing for those individuals discovered through contact tracing

Manfred said that the financial impact of baseball’s delayed start “are devastating” but if MLB doesn’t play a season, the losses for team owners could “approach $4 billion.”

Even without fans in ballparks, the commissioner said that the return of baseball would bring the start of a “return of normalcy” and “American life the way we’ve always enjoyed it.”

“We think historically, baseball’s played a role in the recovery from difficult events,” Manfred said.