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Infectious disease expert: COVID-19 testing for sports unnecessarily taxes the system

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Getting somewhat lost in all the talk about things like how much money the owners are going to play the players or whether or not there will be a DH in all of the games of a truncated season is the medical reality of playing a baseball season at all right now.

Yesterday Nationals closer Sean Doolittle talked about that from a player perspective. About the health risks, short term and long term, of playing during the pandemic. For the players and for managers, coaches, team staff, and everyone they come into contact with. Money may be a deal-breaker, but it’s not at all clear yet that the MLB proposal to restart the season is satisfactory with respect the health precautions.

But even if the proposal seems acceptable to the league and to players, it may not be feasible — or ethical — from a medical perspective. To see how this can be, check out this thread from TSN’s Rick Westhead, who interviewed Dr. Michael Silverman, a London, Ontario, infectious disease specialist.

The premise of the interview is the idea that sports leagues and team ownership groups will privately purchase the many, many COVID-19 tests that would be needed to safely resume pro sports. Westhead and Silverman specifically cite Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment (MLSE) — which owns the Leafs, the Raptors, CFL’s Toronto Argonauts, MLS’s Toronto FC, and several minor league franchises in various sports — which has promised to purchase its own tests.

Except they can’t. Not without depriving hospitals or nursing homes of COVID-19 tests. And not without burning through scarce personal protective equipment on necessary medical procedures, such as cancer surgeries, that you may not have had to use if you knew for sure the patient was negative for the virus:

All of the additional testing, Silverman notes, means that turnaround on processing takes longer and the longer it takes to get test results back the more pointless the testing is because you can’t effectively isolate and quarantine if you don’t know if someone has the virus. The upshot of it all, throwing in thousands upon thousands of COVID-19 tests for professional sports would unnecessarily tax an already overwhelmed testing effort.

The question of whether we can bring back professional sports in this environment is an open one. The question of whether we should even try is probably a more important one.

 

Yankees place Aaron Judge (strained calf) on IL

Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Yankees star Aaron Judge was placed on the injured list with a right calf strain before Friday night’s game against Boston and manager Aaron Boone is optimistic the outfielder will not miss significant time.

The move was retroactive to Wednesday and Boone described the strain as mild after an MRI revealed the injury. To replace Judge on the roster, Thairo Estrada was recalled from the Yankees’ alternate site in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Judge began Friday leading the majors with nine homers and tied with Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon for the major league lead with 20 RBIs.

“It’s something that I think he really wants to try and work through here and kind of wants to be out here and feels like it’s a day-to-day thing which it may very well be, but I just think obviously it goes without saying how important a player Aaron is to us,” Boone said.

Boone had said last weekend’s series on the artificial turf in Tampa Bay took its toll on the 6-foot-7 outfielder.

Judge joined Giancarlo Stanton as the second Yankees slugger to land on the injured list this. Stanton was placed on the IL with a strained hamstring after getting hurt in the second game of last Saturday’s doubleheader.

“We’ve lost two MVP-caliber players,” Boone said. “Obviously that is a blow, especially two guys that playing well as they are right now.”

Judge was pulled for a pinch hitter during Tuesday night’s win over Atlanta and didn’t play Wednesday. The Yankees were off Thursday.

The 28-year-old All-Star missed time during July’s training camp because of a stiff neck.

The 2017 AL Rookie of the Year hit 27 homers in each of the last two seasons, both of them interrupted by injuries. His right wrist was broken when he was hit by a pitch in 2018 and he went on the injured list for two months last year with a left oblique strain.

Judge was diagnosed with a broken rib in March and would not have been ready for the season opener if the season began as scheduled on March 26.