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MLB has coronavirus testing issues. Here’s how the Mariners have avoided them

UPDATED: Mon., July 6, 2020

Mariners players wearing masks head off the mound after picking up balls during batting practice at a “summer camp” practice Saturday at T-Mobile Park in Seattle.  (Elaine Thompson/Associated Press)
Mariners players wearing masks head off the mound after picking up balls during batting practice at a “summer camp” practice Saturday at T-Mobile Park in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson/Associated Press)
By Ryan Divish Seattle Times

Testing problems?

While three teams in the American League West – the Oakland A’s, Houston Astros and Los Angeles Angels – along with the Washington Nationals are experiencing issues with the COVID-19 testing protocols put into place by Major League Baseball, the Seattle Mariners have yet to deal with such difficulties and went through their two scheduled group workouts Monday at T-Mobile Park.

Per reports out of the Bay Area, the A’s experienced delays in getting the players’ saliva samples to the testing facility in Salt Lake City. The tests that were taken going into the weekend were sitting in San Francisco waiting to be shipped. MLB’s reported reason for the delay was the Fourth of July holiday and FedEx employees having that day off. Because of the delays, the A’s have been unable to hold workouts because their position players have yet to be cleared.

In Houston, a city that’s become a hot spot for positive tests in recent weeks, the Astros canceled workouts Monday at Minute Maid Park. Astros general manager James Click released a statement, citing the delay in receiving their most recent round of test results from MLB as the reason.

“Due to the delay in receiving these results, coupled with the contagious nature of the virus, we felt it was prudent to cancel today’s workouts. Players and staff continue to participate fully in the screening and testing protocols while we await these results. Despite these delays over the holiday weekend, we’re optimistic that this process will be ironed out and we’ll be back on the field and ready to compete for a championship soon.”

Astros players confirmed to the Houston Chronicle that the test-sample collectors contracted by MLB didn’t show up for work Saturday or Sunday, likely due to the Fourth of July holiday.

In Los Angeles, another hot spot, sample collectors did not show up Saturday or Sunday. The Angels’ medical staff instead administered the tests and sent the samples to Utah.

Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto issued a message through a team spokesman, saying his team had not dealt with any unexpected problems with the testing, including the collection of samples or getting the results back.

The Mariners took a proactive approach to the process, encouraging players to arrive in Seattle before the July 3 MLB reporting date to get the intake tests early and MLB clearance done in advance. Dipoto said he felt that by initiating the process early, it might have helped them avoid any delays.

Manager Scott Servais would confirm only that a small number of players had tested positive on the initial intake tests. There also are a handful of players waiting to be cleared. Per his social-media accounts, outfielder Julio Rodriguez, a top prospect, arrived in Seattle on Saturday, got tested and was waiting for clearance.

Due to the regulations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and an agreement with the MLBPA, teams cannot comment on a player’s test regardless of results. Players must give permission to teams to discuss the situation or discuss it themselves.

A Mariners spokesman said Dipoto plans to discuss the team’s testing results Wednesday and likely provide numbers on the intake testing but not necessarily details on players who test positive.

Teams have been frustrated with the process, believing it leads to speculation and assumptions if a player is absent from the field and the reason can’t be discussed. But this is the rule in place.

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