“Just an update on our COVID situation here,” Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo said in a Zoom call with reporters tonight, a day after he’d announced that one of the club’s players had tested positive for the coronavirus and five others (four players and one staff member) were deemed to be in close contact and were therefore quarantining, and hours after Major League Baseball decided to postpone the team’s season opener with the New York Mets, which was scheduled to start at 7:09 PM ET in Nationals Park.
“Unfortunately we’ve had two additional confirmed COVID tests today,” Rizzo announced.
“Both are players. Both are already in quarantine through contact tracing. We have a likely positive that requires additional testing, that won’t be completed until tomorrow. And that person, out of caution has been put into quarantine.
“So, in total we have three confirmed positives and one likely positive, and they’re all players.
“The contact tracing has begun for the additional players beyond the one we had yesterday, they were all identified, and we’re working diligently to get all those players in quarantine.
“For the most part, the whole team, we put them in lockdown and they are self-quarantining, but these players in particular have been following the protocols and have quarantined.”
Considering that news, it’s not at all surprising that MLB decided to postpone the first game of the season for the Nationals, and reports tonight suggest they will not play on tomorrow on the scheduled off-day either. When will they play? That’s unclear.
“We’re not sure,” Rizzo explained. “We’re doing extensive contact testing today after the new positives, so when we find out just the amount of people and where they’re at in their timeline we’ll have a lot better picture of this.
“We’re in close contact with MLB protocols and the D.C. protocols, so we’re communicating very, very well, and obviously our intent is to play, but we need to do that in a safe manner that protects the players, and their families, our fans, and our staff members.”
Manager Davey Martinez, who experienced technical difficulties that kept him from talking to reporters on Wednesday, said today the immediate concern is stopping the spread here.
“We don’t want this thing to spread any further,” the fourth-year skipper said. “We want to make sure that everybody is healthy, and once we get through this we’ll be good to go. Look, we’re in D.C., we’re excited to be back, we’re excited to see the fans, and I’m still excited. It may take another few days, but I can’t wait to get back on that field and I know the players feel the same way.”
His club, Martinez said, is of course disappointed that they aren’t playing the season opener tonight, but they want to just make sure everyone is safe first.
“It’s a shame that we can’t play today, but we need to stay positive,” Martinez said. “I know I talked to a lot of players, and my concern is about their health and safety, and they’re going to stay positive.
“I talked to a lot of them last night, I’ll continue to reach out to them to make sure they’re okay. But we’re going to get through this.
“This ain’t the first time we went through some bumpy roads, so we’ve been there and we’re going to come back from this and we’re going to play baseball.”
As unfortunate as these developments are, Rizzo said he is confident it wasn’t a case of someone breaking protocols that led to players on the team contracting the virus, and spreading it to teammates.
“I’ve got the utmost confidence that it was not a player breaking protocol,” Rizzo said. “We were very diligent in Spring Training throughout the whole Spring Training, and the day we landed in D.C. was the day we got our first positive. So, it was — it’s only conjecture on what happened and when it happened, and we don’t want to get into that.
“This is a serious business, it’s about people’s health, and these players, obviously they’re very important to me, and to our organization, but they’re people, and we’ve lost over a half a million people because of this virus. This is nothing to joke about. This is nothing to point fingers over. I believe that we’ve done it the right way all of last year and throughout all of Spring Training and I believe that this was just some isolated incident.”
For clarity’s sake, Rizzo did confirm that the two latest positive tests did come from the PRC tests the club conducted once they returned to the nation’s capital, and while one player in quarantine has experienced a fever, the rest are asymptomatic.
Also, the two positives today, and one likely positive, are from the group of players who were previously in close contact with the original player who tested positive.
Continuing contact tracing is going on now, and the Nationals have to wait and see how it all plays out before they’ll know how to proceed.