On Tuesday, it was announced by The Athletic that 10,000 employees across 27 of the 30 MLB teams will volunteer to be a part of the first and largest antibody study for COVID-19.
Researchers from USC, Stanford, and Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory are calling it the COVID-19 Sero Prevalence Study. This specific test does not look for active infections of the virus, but rather “the presence of a specific blood protein the human body produces in response to it.”
According to Jay Bhattacharya, MD, Ph.D., one of the lead researchers of this study and professor of medicine at Stanford University, the study does not just include players, their families, and team staff, but “concessionaires, ushers, and other part-time employees of all socioeconomic backgrounds, ages, and genders.” Bhattacharya also mentioned that it was important to include front line workers who normally interact with “a large number of people in their jobs.”
“This will be the first time we will be able to see how truly prevalent COVID-19 has spread throughout the United States,” said Bhattacharya. “And instead of it taking years to pull together a study of this scope, especially with stay-at-home orders, MLB has helped us turn it around in a matter of weeks.”
As good as this likely sounds to baseball fans, Bhattacharya and an MLB spokesman have confirmed that this test has nothing to do with bringing baseball back any faster. It’s intent is to simply look at the extent that the disease has spread throughout a number of communities within North America, per Daniel Eichner, Ph.D., the president and laboratory director at the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory.
The MLB declined releasing the three teams who did not volunteer to be a part of the study.
“To even begin to understand how far along we are in battling this virus, we need to know how many Americans have had it,” said Bhattacharya. “We won’t know the true death rate or when we can even begin to think about reopening parts of our economy until we have that data. This study is a huge first step.”