Employees of the Rays and 26 other Major League Baseball teams are participating in an extensive program testing 10,000 people for coronavirus antibodies, ESPN and The Athletic reported Tuesday.
The test will give researchers a better sense of how widespread COVID-19 is throughout the United States, but the data is not being used, officials say, to determine when Major League Baseball should plan on resuming play.
Test kits will be completed voluntarily by players, team staff and their family members, but also part-time employees and stadium workers of all gender, ages and socioeconomic backgrounds.
“This will be the first time we will be able to see how truly prevalent COVID-19 has spread throughout the United States,” Jay Bhattacharya, a Stanford University professor who is one of the lead researchers of the study, told The Athletic.
“And instead of it taking years to pull together a study of this scope, especially with stay-at-home orders, MLB has helped us turn it around in a matter of weeks.”
The kits draw blood with a pinprick and provide results within 10 minutes.
The study is being run by Stanford, USC and the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory, and is privately funded.
Teams were asked to not comment on their participation, and it was not immediately known which three teams declined to participate. The Rays’ involvement was confirmed because a minor-league staff member posted a photo of his completed test on social media, then deleted it.
The test, per ESPN, "will detect the prevalence of IgM, an antibody produced relatively early in those who have been infected with COVID-19, and IgG, a second form that doctors said lasts long after the infection happens" A positive result means the person contracted coronavirus though may have been asymptomatic.
These tests are different than the ones being used, and still needed, by medical personnel to determine if people are actively infected.
Dr. Daniel Eichner, president of the testing company, told ESPN the kits are “absolutely not getting redirected from any kind of frontline testing programs.”
Also, he said he approached Major League Baseball about participating due to its diverse employee base and that “MLB did not partner with us for any selfish reason to get their sport back sooner. They jumped in for public health policy. That was their intention and their only intention."
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