It did not take long for major league baseball’s belated season to begin to crumble. The first regular season games were played Thursday; by Sunday an outbreak of COVID-19 was clearly under way among the Miami Marlins. By Tuesday half the team’s opening day roster, plus other members of the traveling party, had tested positive for the virus.
The outbreak was not, or at least should not have been, surprising. What was surprising, considering that MLB had a 131-page protocol manual, was the belated response the league offered. Sunday’s game in Philadelphia went on as scheduled despite the first rash of positive tests on the basis of a player vote on one of the two teams.
The league appears determined to try to bull through its shortened season, but confidence in its plan, never all that high, is waning, in no small part because it seemed to be caught flat-footed by the Marlins outbreak.
The rapidity with which the virus invaded baseball’s restart, and the chaotic response, has implications beyond sports. Minnesota school districts have been preparing plans for the coming school year that involve a return to in-person classes, with state guidelines expected today. It’s not difficult to see a parallel between the 30-player roster the Marlins took to Philadelphia last Friday and the size of a standard elementary school classroom.
Many of the area superintendents quoted in a Free Press story on Sunday about their plans said their planning focused in-person classes on the lower grades, with more reliance on distance learning for secondary students. Their reasoning, from a strictly educational viewpoint, is sound. The younger students have a greater need for the routine and socialization of the classroom.
But they are also less likely to follow, or even understand, the hygienic protocols demanded in this pandemic. The Marlins outbreak erupted despite MLB’s constant testing for the virus, an advantage our schools won’t have.
No one can say that any specific classroom will have an outbreak of the virus, but we can be certain that some classrooms will. A key question as we approach the new school reality: What will your district do if four fourth-graders come down with the virus? Will they shut down or push ahead?
MLB was caught flat-footed last weekend. Our schools should not be.