WASHINGTON -- The reigning World Series champion Washington Nationals and the team they beat for the title, the Houston Astros, called off practice Monday after not receiving results from COVID-19 tests taken Friday.
Nationals general manager and baseball operations president Mike Rizzo warned that Major League Baseball's bid to stage a coronavirus-shortened 2020 season was in jeopardy unless test results were available in a more timely fashion.
"Without accurate and timely testing it is simply not safe for us to continue with summer camp," Rizzo said.
"Major League Baseball needs to work quickly to resolve issues with their process and their lab. Otherwise, summer camp and the 2020 season are at risk."
MLB, however, blamed the issue on July 4 US Independence Day holiday delivery delays, saying all results would be in by Monday night and such a delay should not happen again.
"Our plan required extensive delivery and shipping services, including proactive special accommodations to account for the holiday weekend," an MLB statement said. "The vast majority of those deliveries occurred without incident and allowed the protocols to function as planned.
"Unfortunately, several situations included unforeseen delays. We have addressed the delays caused by the holiday weekend and do not expect a recurrence."
All Nationals players and staff were tested Friday for coronavirus as part of MLB's protocols as pre-season workouts began ahead of a planned August 23 start of games in home stadiums without spectators.
"Seventy-two hours later, we have yet to receive the results of those tests," Rizzo said. "We cannot have our players and staff work at risk.
"Therefore, we have cancelled our team workout scheduled for this morning. We will not sacrifice the health and safety of our players, staff and their families."
Astros general manager James Click, whose club fell to Washington in seven games in last year's best-of-seven championship series, said his team also had not gotten Friday results.
"The safety of our players and staff remains our top priority," Click said. "The team is still awaiting results from COVID-19 tests taken on Friday. Due to the delay in receiving these results, coupled with the contagious nature of the virus, we felt it was prudent to cancel today's workouts."
The Astros continue to follow testing and screening protocols and believe in the protocols, Click said.
"Despite these delays over the holiday weekend, we're optimistic that the this process will be ironed out and we'll be back on the field and ready to compete for a championship soon," Click said.
MLB clubs are set to face only division foes and nearby rivals from the opposite league in a season cut to 60 games per club with playoffs scheduled as usual in October.
- Unforeseen difficulties -
MLB claimed more than 95% of tests were taken, analyzed and shared with teams by Monday, with 98% (3,654 of 3,740) of tests taken from July 27-June 3 reported by MLB's Utah laboratory, most of them a day after being taken.
"The process has not been without some unforeseen difficulties, which are being addressed with the service providers that are essential to the execution of the protocols," MLB said.
MLB teams shifted Monday to every other day COVID-19 testing through the end of the World Series.
MLB said Utah lab turnaround time was "unprecedented in COVID testing" and includes extra positives confirmation to prevent false positives, with the lab working seven days a week.
The Nationals said Sunday that two of 60 players were positive for COVID-19 and did not show up at the ballpark, but manager Dave Martinez said those results came from tests taken last Wednesday.
Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle said the team had not received COVID-19 safety masks and gloves and stressed in tweets Sunday night the need for faster results.
"We need help to make this work. Faster test results, PPE for high risk individuals and players/staff with high risk family members," he tweeted.
© Agence France-Presse
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