Baseball shuts training facilities as COVID-19 hits American sport

Major League Baseball is shutting down all spring training facilities in Arizona and Florida according to a post on MLB.com as a worrying number of COVID-19 cases surfaced among several US sports. With the NBA, NHL and Major League Soccer all hoping to resume seasons shut down by the coronavirus pandemic, and baseball trying to hammer out a framework for getting 2020 underway, a spate of cases among athletes has sparked concern. USA Today reported that baseball's decision to close club's spring training bases in Arizona and Florida means that players and staff won't be admitted until the facilities are disinfected and deemed safe.

Then those entering must be cleared as negative for the virus. The move comes a day after baseball's Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays and San Francisco Giants shuttered training campuses over virus concerns. The Phillies said five players and three staff members had tested positive at the team's Clearwater, Florida, training center. The NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning closed their facility 23 miles (37km) from Clearwater, after multiple players and staff members tested positive. With confirmed COVID-19 cases on the rise in Arizona as well as Florida, the Giants had closed their spring training base in Scottsdale on Friday after one person and a family member exhibited symptoms. It was in Arizona that NHL Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews was quarantining at home after testing positive, according to the Toronto Sun.

The NHL said Friday that 11 players had tested positive since training facilities reopened on June 8 in anticipation of a 24-team restart in July at still unspecified "hub" locations. The spike in COVID-19 cases in Florida could be a serious concern for the NBA and MLS, which are both planning to resume play in so-called "bubble" environments that someone isolate teams in the state. The NBA is planning a July 30 restart at the Walt Disney World sports complex near Orlando, Florida. The league plans to have 22 teams -- 13 from the Western Conference and nine from the East -- to start play with a chance to reach the final. MLS is also planning a return at Disney World with its 26-team "MLS is Back" tournament, to be held without fans starting next month.

While baseball's efforts to plot a shortened 2020 season have so far faltered amid financial disagreements between players and owners, New York governor Andrew Cuomo tweeted Saturday that the New York Yankees and New York Mets would prepare at home for a potential season, since their Florida bases are now off-limits. "NY will review the teams' plans to make sure the trainings are safe," Cuomo said. Meanwhile, the NFL -- which says it will have safety protocols in place to allow an on-schedule September 10 start at club's home venues -- has seen players test positive amid its "virtual" off-season. In the most recent reported cases, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers confirmed they had players or staff test positive, but declined to confirm reports that the positive results involved at least two players.

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