Under 1% of MLB employees test positive for virus antibodies

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Rod Searcey

This selfie photo taken by Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a professor at Stanford University, shows himself in Stanford, Calif., Sunday, May 10, 2020. Just 0.7% of Major League Baseball employees tested positive for antibodies to COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus. "It allows us to get a peek of the nation-wide prevalence," said Bhattacharya, one of the study's leaders, said Sunday. (MLB via AP)

NEW YORK – Just 0.7% of Major League Baseball employees tested positive for antibodies to COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus.

The small number of positive tests, announced Sunday, was taken as positive news by a sport pushing ahead with plans to start its delayed season. MLB employees have been able to protect themselves from infection, but this means almost all remain susceptible to the virus.

Researchers received 6,237 completed surveys from employees of 26 clubs. That led to 5,754 samples obtained in the U.S. on April 14 and 15 and 5,603 records that were used. The survey kit had a 0.5% false positive rate.

Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford, one of the study’s leaders, said the prevalence of the antibodies among MLB employees was lower than for the general population during testing in New York, Los Angeles, the San Francisco area and Miami.

“I was expecting a little bit of a higher number,” Bhattacharya said during a telephone news conference. “The set of people in the MLB employee population that we tested in some sense have been less affected by the COVID epidemic than their surrounding communities.”

Data for players was not separated in the study, and some MLB family members were included.

Spring training was stopped March 12 and opening day was pushed back from March 26 because of the pandemic. MLB intends to give the players' association a presentation this week for a possible start to the season, and has said frequent testing would be necessary.

Antibodies are produced by a person’s immune system if they have been infected by a virus. These tests are different than the polymerise chain reaction (PCR) tests used to detect active infection.