Major League Baseball does not presently plan to cancel or postpone spring training or regular-season games due to the coronavirus outbreak but has established an internal task force to deal with possible complications in the coming months, according to a memo obtained by ESPN.
The memo, distributed Tuesday morning to hundreds of high-ranking baseball officials, outlined suggested preparations for teams. Among the recommendations, according to the memo:
Players avoid taking balls and pens directly from fans to sign autographs -- a suggestion that will be fleshed out in training materials the league intends to send to teams -- and opt against handshakes.
Teams open lines of communication with the local public-health authority.
Front offices consult a local infectious-disease specialist who can serve as a conduit to health officials.
Medical personnel ensure all players have received the 2019-20 flu vaccine and are up-to-date on other vaccinations.
The league is currently "developing recommendations to mitigate the spread of coronavirus at ballparks" that "address proper hygiene, cleaning methods for the clubhouse and training room, and supplies that Clubs may seek to purchase," according to the memo. MLB expects to inform teams of the plan later this week.
The most common question posed to MLB, according to the memo, regards the access to clubhouse facilities by media and scouts who have traveled to countries in which the virus has spread. Some teams, the memo said, have limited access to those who have traveled to Iran, Italy and South Korea, countries that are not currently on the Center for Disease Control's recommended two-week quarantine list.
Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Ji-Man Choi, who is from South Korea, is conducting interviews with Korean media outside out of the clubhouse, telling reporters via a translator: "I just want to be cautious, especially around the players."
Coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, is a new strain of coronavirus that has surged around the globe in recent months. The coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more serious respiratory diseases. Flu is caused by a different virus. There is no vaccine for coronavirus, though researchers are working on one and hope to begin testing soon. Older people, especially those with chronic illnesses such as heart or lung disease, are most at risk. The coronavirus spreads mainly through coughs and sneezes, though it also can be transferred from surfaces. The best way to prevent infection is by frequent hand-washing, cleaning surfaces with regular household sprays and wipes, and avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
Officials from all teams who intend to travel to countries labeled by the CDC with a Level 2 or 3 travel warning must notify the league's medical director, Dr. Gary Green, before traveling, according to the memo, which added: "We do not recommend travel to such countries."
The Arizona Department of Health Services said Tuesday that it confirmed a "presumptive positive" in Maricopa County for coronavirus -- the second case in the area. Fifteen major league teams hold their spring training in Maricopa County.