With negotiations between the Players Association and Major League Baseball according to the CDC.because of the owners' unwillingness to pay their players in accordance with a March agreement, the chances of the league playing a 2020 season are losing strength. The coronavirus pandemic that caused the season to be delayed in the first place, meanwhile, remains active. To date, COVID-19 has killed more than 115,000 Americans,
Despite the widespread uncertainty about both the season and COVID-19, the Texas Rangers are having front-office employees return to Globe Life Field, three months after the majority of them began working remotely. A team spokesperson confirmed to CBS Sports that the team was entering a new phase of the reopening plan. The Rangers are the first known team to have front-office employees return to their offices, according to league sources. The move comes with the team also in the process of preparing to potentially play games in front of a half-filled stadium later this summer.
When asked whether the team was requiring employees to come in, and if exceptions were being made for individuals who identified as high risk (due to either their age or pre-existing medical conditions), a spokesperson responded by writing: "We are working with all employees to make them feel comfortable in returning to the office, but individuals with medical conditions, child care issues, and other concerns are being accommodated on a case-by-by basis and are able to continue working remotely at present."
The Rangers' decision comes amid worrisome numbers at the local level. Tarrant County, where Arlington is located, describes the community-level spread as "substantial" on its dashboard. Arlington as a whole has had nearly 1,400 positive cases and 25 deaths through Monday. The area around the ballpark, as determined by zip code, has had 110 positive tests, or a rate of 479 cases per 10,000 residents, and 13 deaths, according to Tarrant County's numbers. Texas, as a whole, has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases over the last two weeks after beginning reopening plans.
Previously, Globe Life Field had been used for more than 50 high school graduations. Additionally, some employees' presence had been required throughout the pandemic because of the ongoing construction at the new stadium.
"We have been working with local, county, and state officials throughout the last three months to make certain our protocols reflect the recommended health and safety standards for everyone working at Globe Life Field," the Rangers spokesperson said. "I imagine we have had more communication with the authorities than many teams in this regard since construction continued to complete the building and then we opened Globe Life Field to public events in late May. Since March, we have certainly been following the CDC and state guidelines for distancing, hand washing, face coverings, disinfecting, etc."
Russell Jones, Tarrant County's Chief Epidemiologist, did not respond to a request for comment as of Tuesday.
The Rangers' reopening coincides with an Associated Press report that "several" MLB staff members and players had tested positive for COVID-19. Should a season occur, the Rangers do intend to allow fans to attend games at their brand-new ballpark.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott recently declared that sports stadiums could operate to 50 percent capacity. Half of Globe Life Field's official capacity would mean approximately 20,150 fans could attend every home game.
The Rangers have instituted several safety precautions. Employees are required to have their temperature checked before they're permitted entrance. Once inside, they must cover their faces at all times. (Studies have shown widespread masking reduces the transmission rate.) The spokesperson said the Rangers have also made space accommodations for social-distancing purposes.
Other teams appear to be operating with more caution. Some teams allowed a small number of employees in the office last week, for draft-related purposes, but most front-office employees have continued to work remotely. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Giants and Minnesota Twins have told employees they may not return to the office until 2021, according to league sources.
ESPN reported MLB is allowing some scouts to return to work earlier this week.