Here’s the caveat: Take the tweets from Jon Heyman for what they’re worth. Your milage may vary on that. Heyman is an “Insider” at the MLB Network. He doesn’t say if he only has one source or more than one. He doesn’t characterize his source (“league official” or “team source”). During the negotiations between MLB (owners) and the MLBPA (players union), Heyman operated like an unfiltered, unverified conduit for whatever spin the owners wanted out there, often proved wrong. The phrase “better be right than first” does not apply here.
Here’s what he said a few hours ago:
Hear all Reds players tested yesterday were negative, boding well for their return next week
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) August 16, 2020
Why the cautionary paragraph above?
Heyman is the sole person who has claimed to know, both yesterday and today, of negative COVID test results for the Reds. Haven’t seen it confirmed by MLB, the Reds or baseball reporters. If you want to be optimistic about Heyman’s report: While there is reason for someone to mislead him, the knowledge the claim would ultimately be exposed as false seems like an effective deterrent.
If accurate, the negative results from yesterday’s tests is terrific news.
But keep in mind the timeline of the team exposure and the virus incubation period before you start to make assumptions about when the league will let the Reds play again.
Player A learned of his positive COVID test on Friday, perhaps as late as 11 pm when the Reds game against Pittsburgh ended. The test that produced his positive result was likely taken on Thursday, or maybe even Wednesday. Player A could have become contagious any time between his last negative test result and the positive test.
The incubation period for COVID is believed to be between 3-14 days. That’s the time between when a person is first exposed to the virus and it enters his/her body and when the virus becomes strong enough to present itself to a test. That person may or may not have symptoms at the time of a positive test result or while contagious. The average incubation period has been estimated at 4-5 days. The folks at the Harvard Global Health Institute say this:
“The time from exposure to symptom onset (known as the incubation period) is thought to be three to 14 days, though symptoms typically appear within four or five days after exposure.
We know that a person with COVID-19 may be contagious 48 to 72 hours before starting to experience symptoms. Emerging research suggests that people may actually be most likely to spread the virus to others during the 48 hours before they start to experience symptoms.”
But the virus is new and we’re still learning. A study by the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda released a few days ago says the average may be as long as 7.7 days.
The timeline math for the Reds is pretty simple. Members of the team, coaching staff and other personnel were exposed to Player A, who was contagious, up through Friday night. The length of time they were exposed to him after he had become contagious was certainly several days. So the average incubation period (let’s use 5 days as a middle ground), would extend to Thursday or Friday of this coming week.
One positive aspect of the team-wide negative results (again, if that report is accurate) is that it’s becoming less likely that other players were exposed to COVID at the same time Player A was and have been contagious around the team all this time. It’s believed the Marlins and Cardinals had a group exposed together at the start and that contributed to the double-digit team-wide outbreak. If only one Reds player has been positive for part of last week, the odds of spread are less.
Summary: Good news so far, but nowhere near out of the heightened risk period.
Keep hoping there are no more positive tests for Player A’s family and friends or members of the Reds.