Following an outbreak of COVID-19 at multiple spring training facilities, MLB will reportedly close all facilities in Arizona and Florida immediately for cleaning. Players and staff will be allowed to return to those facilities only after they test negative for COVID-19. Bob Nightengale of USA Today first reported the story on Friday, and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has since confirmed.
The Phillies confirmed eight positive tests among players and staff at their Florida facilities, and the Blue Jays closed their nearby facilities after a pitcher on the 40-man roster presented COVID-19 symptoms. The Astros, who also train in Florida, announced that a player at their Palm Beach facilities tested positive "several days ago" and is recovering after experiencing mild symptoms.
In Arizona, the Giants closed their facilities after, in the words of president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, "one person who had been in the facility and one family member exhibited mild symptoms and were tested." The Rangers also closed their training complex as a precautionary measure.
MLB and the players union are still working to sort out the format of the 2020 season, but increasing COVID-19 caseloads in a number of locations vital to MLB have perhaps become the greater impediment to getting baseball going again. In response to Friday's events, MLB is reportedly revisiting the "bubble" idea from the spring, in which all teams would play in a single city or region. If these case spikes continue in places like Florida, Arizona, and Texas -- home to a total of five MLB franchises -- then the bubble approach may reemerge as the most viable option. In the Blue Jays' instance, their spring facilities might have been in line to host games in the event that Canadian COVID-19 policies would not allow the team to play at the Rogers Centre.
If nothing else, the news on Friday made it less likely that a 2020 season will take place, and that's why MLB is taking aggressive and immediate steps to address the outbreaks at multiple facilities.