MLB, MLBPA Tighten Mask Regulations, More COVID-19 Safety Policies Amid Outbreak

Blake SchusterAnalyst IIAugust 6, 2020

Miami Marlins' Jesus Aguilar wears a face mask to protect against COVID-19 as he stands at the on deck circle during the first inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020, in Baltimore, Md. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Julio Cortez/Associated Press

Following outbreaks of COVID-19 among the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals, Major League Baseball has adjusted its health and safety guidelines to better protect against the pandemic.

According to Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal, players and staff are required to wear face coverings over their nose and mouth at all times in the stadium except for when on the field beginning Thursday. All teams will have outdoor, covered spaces for visiting teams to limit time spent inside, while all traveling parties are now restricted to essential personnel only.

The new regulations were agreed upon by MLB and the MLBPA. ESPN's Jesse Rogers reports failure to adhere to the changes may result in teams "prohibited from further participation in the 2020 season."

Rogers spoke with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred earlier Wednesday, with the league's top decision-maker explaining the importance of individual responsibility.

"Relatively small deviations from the protocols can cause serious problems," Manfred said. "That's a reality. ... Any individual act, you say, 'Wow, not a big deal,' but those individual acts can cause problems."

In tightening the protocols, the league is hoping to avoid another instance of multiple players and staffers contracting the virus.

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Per Rogers, players at home are now prohibited from bars, malls and large gatherings. Compliance officers must give permission before players can leave hotels on the road as well.

Given the nature of how baseball is trying to operate its season without a bubble, Manfred may face criticism over why the league was late in enacting these restrictions. For now, the commissioner hopes the tweaks will allow baseball to complete a 60-game regular season.

Manfred pointed to the 28 clubs who have otherwise followed the previous rules without incident or outbreak in showing the league can operate safely in a pandemic.

Yet the teams who have dealt with a spike in infections proved it'll take more than best intentions to keep the sport safe.

"We believe, in the two serious outbreaks, that we can identify deviations from the protocols that resulted in the situations that we had," Manfred said. "The key is vigilance. It's vigilance on the part of the commissioner's office, club officials, players and everyone involved in the game."