Major League Baseball, in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, has suspended the remainder of Spring Training games and has delayed the start of the 2020 regular season. The decision came after discussions with all 30 teams, as well as the MLB Players Association.
While the season initially was delayed for two weeks, it was pushed back further on Monday, in response to updated recommendations issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which urged a restriction on events of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks.
"MLB will keep fans updated on decisions regarding plans for the 2020 schedule in the days and weeks ahead," the league stated in a release. "The Clubs remain committed to playing as many games as possible when the season begins. We will continue to monitor ongoing events and undertake the precautions and best practices recommended by public health experts, and urge all baseball fans to follow suit. MLB extends its best wishes to all the individuals and communities who have been impacted by the coronavirus."
For the players preparing for a new season, and the fans excited for Opening Day, the longer wait for baseball’s return will be a difficult one. But the most important thing is that everyone does their best to protect their health, as well as the health of their family, friends and communities.
To that end, here is a breakdown of what you need to know about coronavirus, and recommendations for staying safe during this time, via the experts at the World Health Organization (WHO) and CDC.
What are coronavirus and COVID-19?
Coronavirus is a general term for a family of viruses, several of which are known to cause respiratory infections in humans. This current outbreak -- which began in Wuhan, China, in December -- was caused by a novel (not previously identified) coronavirus that the WHO named coronavirus disease 2019 (abbreviated COVID-19).
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How does COVID-19 spread?
The virus is transmitted through respiratory droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or exhales, though it is important to note that someone could have only mild symptoms -- or perhaps even be asymptomatic -- and still spread the disease. There are two main ways the transmission can occur:
1) Person-to-person: This happens when people are in close contact (within 6 feet) of each other. If these respiratory droplets land in the mouths or noses of someone nearby, or are inhaled into the lungs, the virus can spread.
2) Via contaminated surfaces or objects: Respiratory droplets also can land on surfaces or objects. If a healthy person touches these, and then touches their own mouth, nose or eyes, they can become infected.
How to protect yourself
There are several things you can do, and encourage others to do, to avoid infection.
1) Keep your hands clean: Wash your hands often, especially after spending time in a public place, and before eating. Soap and water work well, but make sure to wash for at least 20 seconds and to cover all areas of your hands, including thumbs and between fingers.
If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
2) Avoid touching your face: As much as possible, try not to touch your eyes, nose and mouth, especially if you have not washed your hands recently.
3) Keep surfaces and objects clean: This applies particularly to things you touch all the time, such as doorknobs, countertops, faucets, and even phones. Use water and detergent or soap to clean, and disinfect with EPA-registered household disinfectants.
4) Keep your distance: Practice social distancing. Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick, or who is coughing or sneezing, and refrain from gathering with large groups.
5) Stay home: Work from home, if it is possible to do so, and avoid spending unnecessary time in crowded public locations, for example by ordering takeout or delivery instead of eating in a restaurant. In fact, many areas have closed or put restrictions on businesses such as restaurants and bars, or even taken more dramatic steps. A few states -- including New York, California, and Illinois -- have implemented various “stay at home” ordinances, telling people that they must stay inside as much as possible, with exceptions made for essential workers (for examples, doctors and nurses) and trips for essential services (food).
How to protect the people around you
Remember that we all are responsible for helping keep the people in our communities safe, using these measures.
1) Cover your mouth: If you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth with a tissue, if one is handy, and immediately dispose of it and wash your hands thoroughly. If you do not have a tissue, cover your mouth with the inside of your elbow rather than your bare hand.
2) Limit close contact: The more people stay in, avoid public settings and refrain from gathering in large groups, the better the chances of limiting the spread of COVID-19, and protecting the people who are most vulnerable. That applies even if you feel fine.
3) If you’re sick, take extra precautions: Anyone with symptoms, even mild ones, should stay home, unless you are required to leave to get medical care (before visiting your doctor, call ahead). As much as possible, limit contact with others in your household, and avoid sharing items. You also can wear a face mask when around other people.
Recognizing the symptoms
It is believed that a person may develop symptoms anytime from 2-14 days after being exposed to the virus. The most common are:
• Shortness of breath
Who is most vulnerable?
While most people will experience only mild symptoms -- and about 80 percent will recover without needing special treatment -- about one in six will become seriously ill. Older adults and those who have serious chronic medical conditions are at a higher risk of developing severe symptoms.
Where to find more information
• Your local health department’s web site
• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
• World Health Organization
Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.