By now, you have heard of the coronavirus. This pandemic is sweeping all over the world. There are now over thousands of known cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. There may be many others who do not realize they have the virus. 

The coronavirus is a family of viruses that cause respiratory symptoms in humans and other animals. MERS and SARS are both other types of coronaviruses. The coronavirus now affecting millions worldwide actually has the full name of COVID-19

COVID-19 is much less common than the common flu. It also has killed fewer people worldwide. However, all indications are that COVID-19 is far more virulent than the flu. While there are more than one billion instances of the flu worldwide every year with from 291,000-646,000 deaths, there have been approximately 127,863 cases of COVID-19 worldwide with 4,718 deaths.  That means COVID-19 kills just under 4% of people who get it, a far greater death toll than the common flu. But those numbers are changing even as I write this.

This information is not meant to panic anyone. It merely provides context to the changing nature of COVID-19 and the drastic action many sports teams, including the MLB, are taking in response. 

Coronavirus and baseball

The coronavirus has caused major changes to many professional and amateur sports. Because COVID-19 is an airborne virus, social distancing plays a huge role in stopping its spread. Social distancing is nearing impossible in a sporting event. From the players to the attendees, people are crammed together during a sporting event. 

In baseball, proximity is a major problem in professional, amateur, and children’s leagues. The teams are large, and the popularity of the sport means that large crowds are common. In a move that is emblematic of the COVID-19 response throughout all levels of baseball, the MLB suspended its opening day. 

Originally, the MLB season was set to begin on March 26. According to thebaseballstop on Thursday, March 12, the MLB announced that they will be delaying the start of the season until April 9. The league issued this explanation for their decision 

As of 4:00 p.m. (ET) today, forthcoming Spring Training games have been canceled, and 2020 World Baseball Classic Qualifier games in Tucson, Arizona have been postponed indefinitely. MLB and the Clubs have been preparing a variety of contingency plans regarding the 2020 regular-season schedule. MLB will announce the effects on the schedule at an appropriate time and will remain flexible as event warrant, with the hope of resuming normal operations as soon as possible.  

So, what are the “contingency plans” mentioned in the press release? Many of the MLB clubs are looking for a way to continue to play games while limiting public exposure to the virus. Digital and other means of broadcasting the games may be used. However, there is a big question about whether the players will be compensated for the time they miss during this 

Coronavirus and other sports

The MLB reaction to the coronavirus came after the NBA announced that one of their players had tested positive for the virus. The NBA postponed the rest of their season. The NBA playoffs were supposed to begin on April 18; however, the league has not indicated whether that will continue to be the case. 

Many NHL teams share locker facilities with the NBA, which then led to the cancellation of the current NHL season indefinitely. The NHL season was supposed to end on April 4, but the suspension of the season will set that back and the league’s playoff as well. 

Other sports are also taking steps to reduce coronavirus impact by canceling events. The PGA and LPGA have canceled tournaments. The NFL canceled their yearly league meeting. Tennis tournaments have been canceled, as has soccer matches. 

The big question is how COVID-19 will impact the Summer Olympics. They are set to take play in Tokyo from July 24- August 9. So far, the International Olympic Committee has not canceled the games. They are encouraging athletes to continue training. Yet, the COVID-19 situation is very unstable. So, only time will tell if the Summer Olympics continue to remain as scheduled. 

How to stay healthy

Professional sports are not the only teams to be affected by the coronavirus. Many youth sports have also been canceled because of school closures and restrictions on the gatherings of large crowds. Washington state, California, New York, D.C., Massachusetts, Michigan, and many other states have all restricted gatherings of more than 250 people. 

Because of the gathering bans, it is unlikely that too many sporting events will occur. There are a few steps you can take to keep yourself safe. Most importantly, wash your hands frequently. Keeping an alcohol-based hand rub on hand when out in public is essential. When you get home, wash your hands for twenty seconds using soap and water. 

Also, do not touch your face. Your hands can easily transport the virus to your eyes, nose, and mouth. These are entry points to your body and can cause you to get sick. Overall, practicing basic hygiene and staying out of large crowds is the best way to protect yourself from COVID-19. Unfortunately, that may mean not enjoying baseball for a while. But, the ability to stop the spread of this virus is worth that inconvenience.

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