Philly’s coronavirus response

How worried should Philly be about the Marlins’ coronavirus outbreak?

So far only one local staffer has tested positive, but the Miami team is quarantined in Philadelphia.

Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto look on from the dugout during the first inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins, Sunday

Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto look on from the dugout during the first inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins, Sunday

Chris Szagola / AP Photo
michaelawinberg-square-crop-feb2018

At least 17 members of the Miami Marlins tested positive for the coronavirus. This is national news with serious implications for Major League Baseball, but also local news. The infected Florida team played an entire series against the Phillies — and are now being forced to quarantine in a Philadelphia hotel.

On the baseball front, the Marlins’ season has been put on pause. And since they came in close contact with the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, the hometown team is suspect, too. Scheduled games against the Yankees this week have been postponed.

All Phillies players and staff are getting tested daily. So far one staffer has tested positive, a person who worked in the visiting clubhouse during the Marlins series.

Other contact between the Marlins and city residents is supposed to have been minimal, according to MLB guidelines on travel, and the city health department says it’s working with the teams on contact tracing. It’s unclear exactly which hotel is housing the infected Miamians right now, but some reports say they’re in a building shared by permanent residents.

How worried should you be about what this all means for the city of Philadelphia? Here’s a breakdown of the situation.

Wait, what happened?

The Marlins organization learned on Sunday afternoon that at least three players had tested positive for the coronavirus and would have to sit out their next game.

Should the team play its evening game against the Phillies, the third in the shortened season’s opening seriesl? The playbook leaves the final decision up to the team, and Marlins leadership turned to their shortstop, Miguel Rojas, who led a team discussion via group text. Pondering the question in the Phillies’ visitors clubhouse, they players opted to go ahead with play. (They beat the Phillies 11-6.)

By the next day, 11 Marlins players had tested positive for the virus, along with two Miami staffers. Then on Tuesday, the number rose to 17 reported positive cases among the Florida team.

Did the Phillies catch it?

So far, so good. The Phillies team recorded just one positive test, and none since. But that doesn’t mean the team is in the clear, since it can take days for a positive result to surface.

What did the MLB do?

The MLB paused the Marlins’ season on Tuesday until the team can get its outbreak under control.

As for the Phillies, this week’s series against the Yankees is postponed. The New York team, which had traveled 90 miles south on Monday, stayed put in their hotel, then turned around and went home.

The next scheduled game for the Phils is Saturday versus the Toronto Blue Jays, who are playing this COVID-modified season at their Triple-A stadium in Buffalo, N.Y.

Sidenote: Without a real home stadium, the Blue Jays had wanted to play their season opener vs. the Pirates at PNC Park, but Gov. Tom Wolf denied the request on the basis of coronavirus worries. Why weren’t the Marlins similarly excluded from Philadelphia? Pa. Health Secretary Rachel Levine said it’s because Pittsburgh is currently battling a big surge, while Philly remains mostly flat.

Where are the infected players now?

The Marlins are reportedly staying at The Rittenhouse hotel, according to the Inquirer.

The luxury hotel on the west side of Rittenhouse Square first opened to guests in 1989. It offers temporary accommodations on the first 10 floors, then condos from the 11th through 33rd floors.

What’s the hotel doing about it?

The hotel wouldn’t confirm to Billy Penn whether Marlins players are actually quarantining inside.

But in general, the hotel says it’s following ramped up cleaning procedures outlined by its parent company Hersha. Those include:

  • Disinfecting high-touch surfaces like elevator buttons and door knobs
  • Running HEPA air filtration inside the hotel
  • Shining UV light to neutralize the virus

As far as the 179 private condos in the same building: there’s a separate entrance, and residents use different elevators to access their units. An email from the building’s condo association that was obtained by the Inquirer reportedly stated the hotel and condos use separate ventilation systems, too.

How is Philly’s Health Department handling this?

Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley said Tuesday that a member of his staff is monitoring the situation closely, and hasn’t noticed any local cases connected to the Marlins outbreak.

His department is communicating with the staff of both the Miami team and the Philadelphia team, he assured reporters.

So should Philadelphians be worried?

To be clear, this is a sizable outbreak. The Marlins alone reported more positive coronavirus cases on Monday than some entire counties in Pa. (Philly recorded around 160 new cases overall that day — not including the baseball players, since they don’t live here.)

If the players are quarantining in a Philly hotel, after playing inside a Philly stadium, that poses a potential risk to the folks who’ve been working at each location. The risk of transmission from infected surfaces is considered relatively low, so the most endangered workers are those who were in close physical proximity to the players themselves.

Though there’s only been one so far, Farley nodded to the possibility that more Phillies players — or residents — could test COVID-positive from this, since the CDC believes there can be a delay of up to 14 days between exposure and confirmed results.

However, he’s not that concerned about the Miami players seeding a flood of new cases in Philly as much as he is about the MLB safety protocols. They look strong on paper, he said, but obviously something went wrong.

“The Marlins need to look into how is it they infected each other,” Farley said. “I’m much more concerned about the risk of that over the long term than the risk to Philadelphians over this one event.”

Want some more? Explore other Philly’s coronavirus response stories.

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