Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 Major League Baseball season began without fans in attendance. With new coronavirus cases continuing to hold steady in the United States, it's likely that the league will finish the abbreviated regular season and 16-team postseason behind closed doors as well.
In the meantime, the New York Yankees have started taking proactive measures to enhance the health and safety at Yankee Stadium for the time when fans are welcomed back to the ballpark. On Wednesday, the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) announced that Yankee Stadium became the first sports and entertainment venue in the world to achieve the WELL Health-Safety Rating for Facility Operations and Management.
Here's more from a Yankees press release, which notes the team wants to be "appropriately prepared" when local authorities and MLB give the green light for fans to return:
The rating requirements, which have been fulfilled by the club, serve as a blueprint for best operating procedures to help combat COVID-19, while also providing world-class standards for overall health and safety.
By achieving this designation, which has been confirmed by a third-party verifier, Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), the club can operate with confidence that they are utilizing best practices for players and staff, and that they are appropriately prepared to accommodate the reintroduction of fans when approved to do so by Major League Baseball and local governmental authorities.
Launched in June and created by IWBI, the WELL Health-Safety Rating is informed by guidance developed by the World Health Organization (WHO), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), global disease control and prevention centers and emergency management agencies, recognized standard-making bodies, such as ASTM International and ASHRAE, and leading academic and research institutions.
Some of the new features added to Yankee Stadium include: assessment and improvement on all air and water filters; ensuring and providing the necessary resources for proper cleaning and sanitization among staff; updated and actionable emergency preparedness plans; addition of health and safety signage throughout the ballpark.
"Working with IWBI to achieve the WELL Health-Safety Rating allowed us to focus and implement the most effective and efficient methods known to help mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission in both a workplace setting and a place where the general public will eventually gather again," Yankees senior vice president of stadium operations Doug Behar said in a statement.
The 2020 MLB season has seen multiple coronavirus outbreaks within teams, resulting in several game postponements and subsequent reschedulings. But no outbreak has made MLB decide to shut down the season. Because baseball is not being played in a one-location bubble, all players and staff are still traveling, yet the schedule is regionally limited.
When the season got underway, health and safety away from the ballpark simply relied on players and staff making responsible decisions. This proved to be a vulnerability. As a result, the league announced an updated COVID-19 health and safety protocols that required all 30 MLB teams to travel with a compliance officer who ensures that the team staff and players adhere to the league's health and safety protocols.
Although coronavirus is considered a respiratory illness, the disease can impact a number of systems and organs. That includes possible effects on the heart and the brain. Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, who developed a heart issue from COVID-19, was shut down for 2020 MLB season. More than 170,000 Americans have died from COVID-19.