MLB coronavirus study determines 0.7 percent of participating employees have COVID-19 antibodies

Jack Baer

A large study of Major League Baseball employees saw 60 of the 5,754 participants tested positive for coronavirus antibodies, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. That determined rate is reportedly lower than what similar studies in California found.

The study, which consisted of sending out 10,000 coronavirus antibody tests to employees of 26 MLB teams in mid-April, reportedly found that 0.7 percent of participating MLB employees had antibodies – a number adjusted to reflect testing accuracy – and that 70 percent of those testing positive had been asymptomatic. Among the employees tested were an undisclosed number of players.

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Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of medicine at Stanford, told ESPN that he was expecting a larger number of positive tests. The study has not yet been peer-reviewed, as Bhattacharya said he released the results early due to heavy public interest.

ESPN reports that the study — which MLB volunteered its employees for — will have no effect on when it can finally return to action on the field. Rather, the study was meant to help paint a clearer picture of the spread of the coronavirus while determining public health policy.

From ESPN:

"It's very clear," Bhattacharya said, "that the epidemic is still in the early stages throughout the country."

While MLB gave researchers access to a large amount of people in more than two dozen metropolitan areas, the sample of the study was not without its biases.

The splits of gender, race and job status of the participants obviously differed from the rest of the country:

Men comprised 60% of the population and white people 80% — numbers that don't necessarily reflect the nation and make extrapolating the findings problematic. Similarly, Bhattacharya said, the prevalence of white-collar workers among the MLB population could account for a prevalence rate lower than those found in different samples with tests done in Santa Clara County in Northern California and Los Angeles County in Southern California.

That MLB returned lower results than expected isn’t surprising given that the coronavirus has disproportionately affected people of color and those with lower incomes.

A coronavirus antibody study of MLB employees could help paint a clearer picture of the spread of the virus, but it won't help MLB get back any sooner. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

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