The growing number of COVID-19 cases in Florida is impacting the return-to-play plans of several major sports that have pinned their hopes on coming back either in part, or entirely, on the Sunshine State.
All Major League Baseball teams temporarily closed their spring training facilities after multiple clubs reported positive coronavirus tests on Friday.
COVID-19 Adds to Contentious MLB Negotiations
The situation only complicated negotiations between the MLB Players Association and owners. While the MLBPA had planned to vote on a 60-game proposal on Saturday, ESPN reported that players decided to wait until getting more data on coronavirus testing. On Sunday, the union delayed the vote again after MLB commissioner Rob Manfred offered a few improvements to the league’s offer.
“Given the [COVID-19] developments, I understand that the players are concerned that the 2020 season will be truncated beyond the agreed upon number of games (for example, we agree to play 60 and can only play 40),” Manfred wrote to MLBPA executive director Tony Clark in a letter obtained by The Associated Press. “If that were to happen, I would be prepared to eliminate the 2021 components of the deal. That would mean that we would not get the expanded playoffs in 2021 and the DH rule would revert to the current rule.”
Some teams are already planning to move training camps out of Florida if the two sides reach an agreement on a 2020 MLB season. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday that both the Mets and Yankees would train in New York, a stunning turnaround from the early days of the pandemic when New York City and the surrounding Tri-State area were the epicenter of the American outbreak.
“I think New York now is especially attractive, compared to the other states, because we have such a low transmission rate,” Cuomo told reporters.
Coronavirus Threatens Florida Bubble Plans
Meanwhile, NBA officials are beginning to express concerns over the league’s Orlando bubble plan, though they currently expect to go forward with their plan to resume the season with 22 teams on July 30. Most teams would arrive at Walt Disney World around July 8.
While Central Florida hasn’t seen the dramatic increases in COVID-19 cases occurring in other parts of the state, the NBA is still taking notice.
“Can’t say I’m surprised, given the state’s approach to reopening,” National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts told ESPN. “We are obviously clearly monitoring the situation.”
The Florida spike may impact other teams and leagues as well. The NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning closed its training facility after three players and additional staff members tested positive for COVID-19. The WNBA and MLS both plan to resume their seasons in Florida as well.
Florida has reported 97,283 COVID-19 cases and 3,160 deaths from the disease as of Sunday, according to data collected by The New York Times. The state set new daily highs for reported cases on Thursday, Friday, and again on Saturday, when Florida recorded 4,049 new cases.