The Phillies are among 27 Major League Baseball teams that have agreed to participate in a vast nationwide study that could give researchers a better understanding of how pervasive the coronavirus is within specific sectors of the United States.
It’s unclear how many Phillies employees volunteered to take part in the independent epidemiological study, which is being conducted by the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory (SMRTL) in conjunction with Stanford University and USC. But every member of the front office had access to a take-home kit and instructions for administering the test via a simple pinprick.
The test, which is expected to involve up to 10,000 people and will be the largest COVID-19 antibody study conducted in the U.S. thus far, is designed to detect blood protein that would be present in people who have been infected by COVID-19 but might have been asymptomatic. Results are available within 20 minutes of taking the test, which looks similar to a pregnancy test.
MLB was approached recently by the SMRTL because the league's teams could offer a large group of test subjects with a diversity of ages, genders and ethnicities. While the Phillies made the tests available only to front-office personnel, other clubs reportedly offered them to an even wider cross-section of people, including players, ushers and concession workers and their family members.
The antibody test is different from the sought-after PCR test that is being administered to people who suspect that they are actively infected with COVID-19.
Likewise, MLB’s participation in the study isn’t expected to influence when — or even if — baseball will be played this season.
“MLB did not partner with us for any selfish reason to get their sport back sooner,” Daniel Eichner, president of the SMRTL told ESPN.com. “They jumped in for public health policy. That was their intention and their only intention.”
Although the commissioner’s office has been brainstorming various concepts for the safest and most effective way to begin the season — including an idea in which all 30 teams would travel to Arizona and live essentially in isolation while playing in a dozen mostly spring-training ballparks in the greater Phoenix area — substantive conversation with the Players’ Association about any specific idea has not yet taken place, according to a source.
“The only decision we have made, the only real plan that we have, is that baseball is not going to return until the public health situation is improved to the point that we’re comfortable that we can play games in a manner that is safe for our players, our employees, our fans and in a way that will not impact the public health situation adversely," commissioner Rob Manfred told Fox Business on Tuesday.
"Right now, it’s largely a waiting game. During that period, as you might expect any business would, we have engaged in contingency planning. We thought about how we might be able to return in various scenarios but again the key is the improvement in the public health situation.”