NEW YORK (Reuters) – Major League Baseball employees and their families were invited to participate in an independent community testing study for COVID-19 in order to gauge the presence of the disease in the United States, a league source confirmed to Reuters on Tuesday.
The study, headed up by the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory, will use antibody tests separate from those healthcare providers commonly use to diagnose the disease.
Researchers, who are partnering with Stanford University and the University of Southern California in the study, reached out to the commissioner’s office citing the geographically diverse nature of the league.
Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of medicine at Stanford University, told ESPN here that the speed with which MLB could coordinate its employees for the study was a determining factor in working with the league.
“Why MLB versus other employers? I’ve reached out to others, but MLB moved by far the fastest,” said Bhattacharya. “We’re trying to set up a scientific study that would normally take years to set up, and it’s going to be a matter of weeks.”
The regular MLB season is currently on hold amid the outbreak of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, that has frozen the professional sports calendar and brought daily life to a grinding halt for millions across the globe.
League Commissioner Rob Manfred said on Fox Business on Tuesday that games would not resume until “the public health situation is improved” to the point that games can be held safely for players, employees and fans.
MLB tamped down reports last week that it was weighing restarting play as early as May in an isolation bubble, as professional sports leagues have been brainstorming scenarios in which they would return to action as soon as possible, even before the pandemic is completely under control.
Reporting By Amy Tennery; Editing by Christian Schmollinger