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MLB participates in study to help shed light on infection rate of COVID-19

Hannah A. Bullock, Azaibi Tamin
CDC via The Associated Press
Antibody blood tests for the coronavirus could play a key role in deciding whether millions of Americans can safely return to work and school. But public health officials warn the tests could create confusion and ultimately slow the path to recovery.

Major League Baseball has joined the fight against the novel coronavirus. Most of the league's 30 teams, including the Mariners, are participating in a study that will help researchers learn more about the infection rate of COVID-19. It's the topic of this week's conversation between KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel and Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick.


The study is being run by Stanford University, University of Southern California and the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory in Salt Lake City, Utah. Researchers were looking for a population in the U.S. to test for antibodies.

“This is not a test to find out if you have the virus. It's a test to find out if you have the antibodies that produce immunity," Thiel said, adding that it's an important step in research to understand how soon our economies can open back up. “They were looking for a big national company that has employees everywhere and had a fairly diverse employee group. And Major League Baseball (MLB) was the first to say yes to this offer. This is going to be, I think, a real step forward for our understanding of what's happening.”


The testing kit is mailed to participants, Thiel said, who collect pin pricks of blood on test strips. Results appear after 15 minutes, the individual takes a photo of the results and sends the sample to the lab. 

“The lab will study the samples and be able to produce data that tells everyone about how far this disease is spread — since MLB is in all the major markets all around the country," Thiel said. 


Thiel said MLB teams and employees are ideal for the study.

"They've got a pretty diverse workforce that's not doing anything right now. There's a lot of women in front offices and sales and other departments. There's a lot of ethnic diversity," Thiel said. "I really do think this is an opportunity for a sports league to take a proactive position in the fight against coronavirus and to be doing something good without making any money off of it.”


Thiel said the data will indirectly benefit MLB.

“It's not going to restart the season,” he said. “But it does contribute an important building block to the decision making that's going to reopen the economy, which will include all pro sports.”

Never miss an episode again. Subscribe to Sports With Art Thiel with iTunes orGoogle Play now. You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest.

Kirsten Kendrick hosts Morning Edition on KNKX and the sports interview series "Going Deep," talking with folks tied to sports in our region about what drives them — as professionals and people.