How The League Players Cope With COVID-19 Problems In Florida

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Since arriving at the MLS is Back tournament in Orlando on June 27, 11 players and employees of FC Dallas have tested positive for COVID-19. By the end of the week, 14 players – including one from the Columbus Crew – and two non-players had tested positive.Although more and more teams are arriving day by day, several clubs (such as Toronto FC and Colorado Rapids) have pushed back their arrival dates, all against a backdrop of burgeoning cases in downtown Florida. According to the Florida Department of Health, on Saturday, the number of new cases for Florida residents in Orange County – where the Swan and Dolphin Resort is located and where the MLS delegation resides – was 1,166 and the percentage of positive tests remains double-digit, with a Saturday score at 15.5%. In neighboring Osceola County, home of the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, the number of new cases has been 255, a peak in the past two weeks. Saturday’s positive test rate was 19.5%.

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The league has always argued that some positive tests, although not at all desirable, are expected. However, the reality of the situation made many people think, even if 1,191 people in the MLS delegation were tested in the last two days, with two positive tests.

As one member of the MLS delegation said: “I would really like to go home now. ”

All of this made it possible to raise and raise several questions. Should Dallas be removed from the tournament? Should the tournament even go ahead? If so, how safe will it be? MLS believes it is doing everything it can.

“In consultation with infectious disease experts and government health officials, MLS has developed comprehensive health and safety protocols that include pre-trip testing, as well as isolation on arrival until Additional screening tests are completed, “said MLS deputy commissioner and president Mark Abbott. “These protocols have led to the early identification and isolation of infected people who probably contracted the virus before traveling. These people were quickly identified and separated from other participants and tournament staff so that they could receive care and ensure that we minimize the risk of transmission to other participants. ”

To its credit, MLS has been transparent about its programs and protocols. The MLS personnel inside the bubble are tested every two days. If an individual is positive, they are quickly placed in isolation until authorized by a health care professional. Contact tracking is then done to see who else might be at risk, with more people being quarantined.

“As long as you have systems in place to test and isolate people so that the disease does not spread, then I think you are doing the right thing,” said Sandro Galea, epidemiologist and dean at Boston University. School of Public Health.

There are holes in the Orlando “bubble”, but not as many as we thought. Several sources aware of the situation told ESPN that about 90% of staff at Swan and Dolphin hotels (which is managed by Marriott) are tested regularly, although the sources have not disclosed the frequency. The same is true for 100% of the transport staff. A source added that the 10% who are not tested would rarely, if ever, come into contact with a member of the MLS delegation.

This is significantly different from what was explained in the pre-arrival gamer manual, which stated that hotel workers and Disney actors had not been tested for COVID-19. (Editor’s note: ESPN is owned by Walt Disney Co.) This change was negotiated before the first teams arrived in Orlando. Those who are not tested will be subjected to temperature controls, will complete questionnaires and will be required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE).

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Stefano Fusaro of ESPN takes stock of the atmosphere of the MLS is Back tournament after a match has been postponed.

As promising as this development is, it now seems that there is a greater potential for asymptomatic individuals on teams who arrive to transport the virus in the bubble. The physical nature of football exacerbates the possibility of spread.

“Football is a sport in which there is close contact between people, intense exhalation for long periods and close physical contact. Said Abraar Karan, a doctor at Harvard Medical School and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who works on the COVID-19 response in Massachusetts. “It’s a configuration for the transmission. So while football is less risky than basketball – which is inside and there is more close contact – it is still a high risk as the players get closer to each other others. ”

The situation in Orlando also highlighted the limits of the tests, although it remains a pillar of the league plan.

In the cases of Dallas and Columbus, all members of the traveling group gave a negative result before leaving for Florida. The issue of false positives has also been raised in recent weeks, particularly with regards to NWSL team Orlando Pride, which had to withdraw from the return league to play in Utah. Minnesota United also had a false positive test. But Karan says that a bigger problem is about false negatives, by which an individual is infected, but for whom the viral load is not high enough to register a positive result. He cited a recent CDC study of a Louisiana correctional facility in which 36% of those initially tested negative ended up being positive four days later.

“The window through which people pass on to other people, then those people start to experience symptoms or develop a virus, it can be spread out,” said Karan.

Galea has stopped calling what Dallas is experiencing an epidemic, referring to it rather as a “group” of cases. As for whether Dallas should be withdrawn from the competition or the competition canceled entirely, Galea said he did not have enough information to respond, although he did express confidence in the configuration of the league.

” As long as [MLS is] on top of that, they probably have the data they need to make decisions, “he said.

Karan says he is biased to some extent since he has seen and treated patients who have died of COVID-19. Even those who are recovering, some have persistent debilitating effects. This explains, in part, why he firmly opposed the argument that the tournament should not take place. He considered the position of the league not to consider a plan B or to cancel the tournament as “reckless” given the number of positive tests that Dallas has undergone, even in the midst of attempts to make training and life inside the bubble as safe as possible.

“If you are going to a tournament knowing [about Dallas], you are in denial if you say that the tournament can somehow be magical, “he said.

“You move people and interact with even more people. You basically say “we know it’s dangerous. We know our players are positive. We know we put them in high-risk situations where they “are in close contact with each other. And yet we hope for a different outcome. There is no science there. There is no logic there. ”

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Taylor Twellman describes concerns about COVID-19 testing and the MLS is Back Tournament.

Galea and Karan agreed that if this proved that there was a case of community spread of the virus inside the bubble, it would raise their concerns to a much higher level. No bubble is impregnable, but such a scenario would further weaken the feeling that the bubble is safe enough.

MLS, for its part, insists that canceling the tournament is not an option. In their opinion, the protocols work. There is also no single objective measure – such as a predetermined number of positive cases – that would force them to cancel the tournament. If there is a case of community spread inside the bubble, the league would consult with their medical advisers on the next steps.

“My thinking is this: does the health of players deserve to be at stake when we are still trying to understand all the details of this virus and control transmission? Said Karan. “In so many states in this country, their epidemics are completely uncontrollable at this stage. They are going to have to take extreme measures to control everything. ”

” I love sport. I want [them] as much as anyone. But I cannot in good conscience say that it is safe for players to know that so many people are positive and that sports are going to be high risk for the most part. ”

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1:25

Tyler Miller says he and his teammates are very cautious with the recent spike in Covid-19 cases in Orlando.

The MLS has shown flexibility in the Dallas case, postponing its first game with Vancouver which was originally scheduled for July 9. The league has not specified which scenario would force them to remove Dallas from the tournament, but obviously if FCD has trouble putting a team on the field, the league should take this into account.

The MLS Players Association (MLSPA) is on the ground in the form of Executive Director Bob Foose, who is monitoring the situation and has been in close consultation with the league and player leaders, but has yet to comment publicly on the tests. positive. However, players have spoken, especially those deemed to be at higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Columbus goalkeeper Matt Lampson, a cancer survivor, went on Twitter to voice his concerns.

The next few days before the opening of the July 8 tournament between Orlando City SC and Inter Miami CF (Watch LIVE on ESPN, 8 p.m. ET) could reveal a lot about the comfort levels around this competition. If the positive tests decrease, the MLS will be stronger.

Seven teams are yet to arrive in central Florida; for now, MLS is confident that the news will improve.

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