(Reuters) – Major League Baseball (MLB) has tightened its health and safety protocols in an attempt to salvage the season after a series of positive coronavirus tests in recent days, according to a memo from the league obtained by Reuters.
Teams will have to reduce the size of travelling parties “to only personnel who are absolutely essential to playing games”, players and staff must wear face coverings at all times unless alone in their rooms, and in all parts of the ballpark – including dugouts – except for on the field of play.
The new guidelines were distributed to teams and players on Wednesday.
The MLB’s truncated 60-game season started last month but games involving at least eight teams have had to be postponed after members of the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals tested positive for coronavirus.
Television broadcasts have shown players not social distancing, not wearing masks, high-fiving and spitting.
The MLB said in its memo, sent to clubs on Wednesday, that it changed its protocols after investigating how the virus spread within the Marlins travelling party.
“We recognize that these changes place additional burdens and restrictions on players and staff. But if we desire to play, they are necessary to limit infections and, if someone does test positive, to keep the virus from spreading,” the memo said.
It, however, reiterated that games will not be postponed any time a player or staff member tests positive.
The memo asks players and staff to limit the amount of time they remove their masks to eat and drink and bans conversation at mealtimes.
Players and staff on the road are also barred from meeting in public areas in hotels or leaving the premises without permission from the club’s compliance officer.
When at home they are banned from visiting bars, lounges, malls, or other places where large groups gather.
Individuals who refuse to comply with the guidelines could be banned for the season and post-season.
“Everyone must be accountable for their own conduct because the careless or reckless actions of a few can impact the health and wellbeing of everyone,” the memo said.
(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru and Amy Tennery in New York; editing by Jason Neely and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)