COVID-19 test delays — and at least one incident in which testers simply didn’t show up at all — have delayed workouts for at least two teams so far. And at least one team’s general manager is hopping mad about it.
Alex Coffey of The Athletic reported overnight that the Oakland Athletics have yet to have a full squad workout because of COVID-19 test delays. They were supposed to begin such workouts yesterday, but delayed them until today. They have since been delayed again until tonight, and even those may not happen.
Why? Because the initial team tests that are required before allowing the team’s full complement of players and coaches into the facility had not even arrived at MLB’s testing center in Utah as of last night. Indeed, they sat in the San Francisco airport all weekend because no one with MLB or the league’s testing company bothered to account for the Fourth of July holiday and expedite shipping.
Coffey obtained the text message Athletics’ GM David Forst sent to the entire club about the COVID-19 test delays. And, frankly, it’s gobsmacking.
The upshot, as Forst explains in the text, is that the test samples which were collected on Friday and which were due to be in Salt Lake City on Saturday sat at the San Francisco airport because of the July 4 holiday. Which, OK, fine, in which case someone should have changed the shipping instructions for Sunday delivery rather than have it just wait around until Monday like any other package. But no one bothered to do that. Forst, in the text:
On top of screwing up the logistics of this whole thing, neither MLB nor CDT (the company that collects the samples) communicated any of this to us until we pressed them for information, at which point all they could do was apologize, which frankly doesn’t really do much for us. Our best shot is to schedule a workout for [Monday] night with the hope that the samples arrive at the lab on time tomorrow and they are able to turn around your results in a matter of a few hours.
Forst goes on to say that the blame for the COVID-19 test delays “lies with CDT and MLB and I won’t cover for them like I did earlier today.”
The “covering for them” refers to comments Forst made to the media after the initial delay in testing, which he and manager Bob Melvin blew off as a routine delay, with Forst saying “We all know that being flexible and adjusting to the unknowns is going to be part of everything we do this season.” In the text, however, Forst is clearly pissed off:
Despite having our schedule a week ahead of time, they didn’t alert us to the possibility of any complications around July 4th, and once there were issues, they did nothing to communicate that to us or remedy the situation until Nick (Paparesta, the A’s head athletic trainer) and I forced the issue at various times today. If possible, I’m as frustrated and pissed as you are (well, probably not as pissed as Matt is), and I assure you the rest of the staff is as well.”
“Matt” refers to A’s third baseman Matt Chapman, who expressed his anger at the COVID-19 test delays to Forst. He’s not the only A’s player to be upset about this:
— Jake Diekman (@JakeDiekman) July 6, 2020
This anger is not merely about delays to workouts which, given how compacted training camp and the season is, matter a great deal and put the A’s at a competitive disadvantage to teams who are already playing simulated games. It also poses health and safety concerns.
Pitchers and catchers have been allowed to report already and without the test results they have no idea if COVID-19 is spreading in the clubhouse or if any of them need to be isolated. Diekman has specific reason to be concerned as his history of ulcerative colitis, which caused him to have part of his colon removed a few years back, puts him in the “at risk” category. The A’s, now, get to sit around most of today waiting for testing results that, per Coffey’s report, likely, at best, arrived at the Utah testing facility after 1AM this morning.
And the MLB COVID-19 test delays, it seems, are not limited to the Oakland Athletics. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that down in Anaheim, the testers who conduct saliva tests for the Los Angeles Angels simply did not show up as scheduled yesterday. Rosenthal says that it led to Angels players conducting their own tests. He said that it was unclear if the tests were shipped to lab in Utah — the AWOL testers are supposed to do that — but he does note that today’s workouts were pushed back from 9 am to noon, most likely to account for the testing screwup.
Rosenthal says “two other, unidentified teams had same issue on Sunday,” which suggests as many as four teams, including the Athletics and Angels, are experiencing COVID-19 test delays.
This, to say the least, is inexcusable. Major League Baseball has based its entire, radical 2020 season structure on extensive health and safety protocols and an extensive COVID-19 testing regime. There is already concern on the part of some that, even with such protocols and testing, playing the 2020 season is too risky, but it’s undeniable that there is zero way for professional sports to be conducted in a pandemic without such protocols or with material COVID-19 test delays.
Mere days into the endeavor, however, we have all of this.
UPDATE: Add the Washington Nationals to the list of COVID-19 test delays:
The Nationals have cancelled their team workout scheduled for this morning because of the delay in test results, according to a statement from general manager Mike Rizzo.
— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) July 6, 2020
Here is a statement from Nationals GM Mike Rizzo — and it doesn't mince words: "Without accurate and timely testing it is simply not safe for us to continue with Summer Camp. Major League Baseball needs to work quickly to resolve issues with their process and their lab." pic.twitter.com/Ho8DkAw4Tb
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 6, 2020