The Nationals have called off today’s scheduled workouts at Nationals Park amid concerns about the delay in getting COVID-19 test results back from Major League Baseball’s lab.
Despite assurances from MLB that results sent to the league’s lab in Salt Lake City would be available 24 hours after testing, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said players and staff members still haven’t received results from the tests they all took 72 hours ago.
“We cannot have our players and staff work at risk,” Rizzo said in a statement this morning. “Therefore, we have canceled our team workout scheduled for this morning. We will not sacrifice the health and safety of our players, staff and their families. Without accurate and timely testing, it is simply not safe for us to continue with summer camp. Major League Baseball needs to work quickly to resolve issues with their process and their lab. Otherwise, summer camp and the 2020 season are at risk.”
The Nationals have held three days of workouts at their home ballpark so far, with player groups spread out from morning through late afternoon to avoid large gatherings. Players and staff members were not allowed on site until getting a negative result from their first round of intake testing.
Fifty-eight players participating in camp underwent the intake testing, and as of Sunday afternoon two unnamed players had tested positive for COVID-19. The results of a handful of tests, mostly of Latin American players who were later to arrive in Washington than others, still had not been known.
The intake test, though, was only the first of a spate of tests players and staffers will get over the course of the summer and the 2020 season. MLB’s protocols require testing every other day, with the promise of results in 24 hours.
That process hasn’t gone nearly as smoothly as hoped.
Sean Doolittle brought the issue to public light Sunday when during his video conference interview with reporters the reliever lamented not having results back from the test he took Friday. He had already taken his next, required test Sunday morning without knowing the outcome of his previous test.
“I got tested again this morning without the results of my test from Friday,” Doolittle said. “So we’ve got to clean that up, right? That’s one thing that makes me a little nervous.”
Other teams have dealt with similar issues. The Athletics, in particular, weren’t able to hold their planned full-squad workout Sunday because test results had not been returned yet. The Astros canceled today’s workout because, like the Nationals, they hadn’t received results back from Friday’s tests.
Update: MLB issued a statement this afternoon addressing this weekend’s specific problem and the testing program in general.
“Our plan required extensive delivery and shipping services, including proactive special accommodations to account for the holiday weekend,” the league said. “The vast majority of those deliveries occurred without incident and allowed the protocols to function as planned. Unfortunately, several situations included unforeseen delays. We have addressed the delays caused by the holiday weekend and do not expect a recurrence. We commend the affected clubs that responded properly by canceling workouts.
“We appreciate the great cooperation from the players as well as the hard work of the clubs and many internal and external staff members under these challenging circumstances. The process has not been without some unforeseen difficulties, which are being addressed with the service providers that are essential to the execution of the protocols. It is important to be mindful that nearly all of the individuals have been tested as planned. The health and safety of our players and employees will remain our highest priorities.”
Other points MLB made in the statement ...
* The league collected 3,740 intake screening samples from June 27-July 3, representing all 30 clubs. At the end of Sunday, the league’s laboratory in Utah (CDT) had reported results for 98 percent of those tests. The remaining 2 percent are expected to be reported this afternoon.
* Per the agreed-upon plan between MLB and the MLB Players Association, testing shifted from intake screening to regular asymptomatic testing July 3 and will now test all players and Tier 1 staff members every other day through the end of the World Series. Due to the holiday weekend, the league and union advised CDT to test all clubs one time between July 3-5 and to begin every-other-day testing July 6. (Note: Nationals players and staffers were tested on both July 3 and July 5.)
* According to the league, the Utah lab “is conducting a level of analysis and turnaround time that is unprecedented in COVID testing, including providing an extra layer of confirmation for all positive test results to rule out false positive concerns. The laboratory is operating on a seven-day-a-week schedule from July 5 through the end of the World Series.”