Major League Baseball is on the verge of finalizing a plan to begin the 2020 regular season during the coronavirus pandemic, but well before that was a possibility, the league delved further into the spread of the disease. Last month, to figure out exactly how widespread the coronavirus had already become in their community, the league agreed to participate in a nationwide COVID-19 antibody test, run by Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of medicine at the University of Stanford.
The results came in on Sunday, and it revealed that only 39 of the 5,603 participants in the study tested positive for coronavirus antibodies, which accounts for only 0.7% of the league. Additionally, the MLB mortality rate sits as 0%.
"I was expecting a larger number," said Dr. Bhattacharya, via ESPN. "It shows the value of doing the science as opposed to guessing."
These results are surprising, because Bhattacharya and other medical experts believed that they would receive similar numbers as California's antibody tests in Los Angeles and Santa Clara Counties, proving that the disease had been more widespread across a random sample of citizens, both at Spring Training sites and in MLB host cities.
One of the possible reasons for the low numbers is the prevalence of white-collar individuals who took part in the study, as opposed to those in poorer parts of the United States. Additionally, those in MLB who participated in the test can work from home, which obviously reduces their chances of contracting COVID-19.
This is good news, in some aspects (a low infection rate is, of course, preferred), but it's worrisome that this random sample of employees is nowhere close to a semblance of herd immunity.
Regardless, the league is prepared to begin their negotiations with the players union about a possible start date for the 2020 season. Ideally, that vital next step goes smoothly.