Joe West Will Take Part in 2020 MLB Season Despite Being High Risk for COVID-19

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJuly 7, 2020

CHICAGO - AUGUST 29:  Umpire Joe West #22 looks on during the game between the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox on August 29, 2019 at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Ron Vesely/Getty Images

Veteran umpire Joe West will participate in MLB's 60-game 2020 season.

"If this game hasn't gotten me by now, no virus is going to get me," West said, per The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal. "I've weathered a bunch of storms in my life. I'll weather another one."

Rosenthal noted West faces an elevated risk of contracting COVID-19 based on an MLB evaluation. The 67-year-old said his physical showed slightly elevated blood pressure but that he brought the number down thanks to medication and a device for his sleep apnea.

West went on to question the coronavirus' mortality rate.

"I don't believe in my heart that all these deaths have been from the coronavirus," he said. "I believe it may have contributed to some of the deaths. I said, 'I'm not going to opt out. I'm going to work. And I'm going to work until you take me off the field or I get hurt, whatever. I'm working.'"

According to the World Health Organization, the United States' nearly 2.9 million COVID-19 cases are the most of any country in the world. The U.S. has also confirmed 129,643 deaths from the disease.

In addition, a Yale study published in the Journal of the American Association Internal Medicine found evidence the number of COVID-19 related deaths has been undercounted, per Berkeley Lovelace of CNBC.

Many have raised concerns about the return of major sports leagues such as MLB, the NBA, MLS and the WNBA later this month.

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Before the arrival of summer, many states began relaxing business restrictions and stay-at-home guidelines before the COVID-19 pandemic had been contained. As a result, the number of cases has surged in recent weeks.

MLB also experienced issues with its COVID-19 testing protocol when results were slow to reach some teams, hampering their ability to conduct workouts.

Rosenthal noted West will close the gap on former umpire Bill Klem, who worked a record 5,375 regular-season games. West is 66 games away from surpassing Klem for the all-time mark.