While not about baseball, this is about some baseball people and the role MLB and – likely – the Atlanta Braves organization has played in helping researchers learn more about this insidious virus.
Could the Atlanta Braves be helping researchers figure out how much of the population has already been exposed to the COVID-19 virus? The answer: very likely so, yes.
One of the key elements impacting the spread of this virus involves the antibodies that people can develop after exposure. Generally speaking, the more you have, the better you can fight off the virus.
Stanford University wants to know about the spread of antibodies across the general population, but particularly those living in the hardest-hit areas: the major urban centers of the country. But how do you quickly find reasonably representative samples of people from those cities?
Enter Major League Baseball.
According to a report on CBSSports.com, the goal is to test up to ten thousand employees of 27 of the MLB teams for the presence of COVID-19 antibodies.
It isn’t stated which 3 of the 30 teams are not involved in this research effort, though it’s a reasonable guess that only one club from each of the cities holding two MLB teams (New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles) was selected so that Stanford would be able to get roughly the same number of tests from each city.
The next most likely opt-out would have been the Toronto Blue Jays, if Stanford wanted to stay within the confines of the United States.
So while not confirmed, it seems very likely that the Atlanta Braves had many of their employees involved. Good on them for doing so.
The way it worked was this: volunteers in the employ of each club showed up at their respective ballparks, filled out a questionnaire, had the test administered via a quick blood sample, and in fifteen minutes, the clinician got the results.
The goal of this study is to get better fact-based numbers from a broad spectrum of people so that policy-makers can perhaps get a better handle on when things can start back towards … well, whatever “normal” is going to be in our near future.
As the abstract of one related paper states:
Establishing how many people have already been infected by SARS-CoV-2 is an urgent priority for controlling the COVID-19 pandemic. Patchy virological testing has hampered interpretation of confirmed case counts, and unknown rates of asymptomatic and mild infections make it challenging to develop evidence-based public health policies.
In other words, we’ve heard anecdotal reports about people being exposed to the virus, yet being ‘asymptomatic’ – unaffected by the nasty effects. Stanford wants to have better data on this phenomenon and how widespread it is. If it turns out that there are a lot of folks like that around, then that’s probably good news for all of us.
The study is still in progress and the resulting findings will have to be argued over via the peer review process, so any decisions that might follow from this work are still many months out.
Nonetheless, it’s good to see that baseball can – in a small way – help contribute to a solution in the midst of a very big problem.