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Is MLB’s Experience With COVID-19 A Signal Not To Open Schools, Businesses?

WCBS Radio New York logo WCBS Radio New York 8/1/2020 Lynda Lopez
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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- Could Major League Baseball's experience with coronavirus be a warning about reopening schools and workplaces?

Professional baseball teams began playing games again in stadiums, without fans, this month. However, almost immediately, players began testing positive for the virus.

The Miami Marlins had over a dozen players test positive for the virus after playing the Philadelphia Phillies, prompting both teams to postpone a number of games.

WCBS 880 Mets broadcaster Howie Rose then speculated as to whether or not the season could continue with outbreaks beginning to occur.

Dr. David Hirschwerk, an infectious disease specialist at Northwell Health, spoke with WCBS 880's Lynda Lopez, saying what's happening in the MLB could very likely happen if schools were to reopen.

...listen to the audio...

"One of the lessons I think that we learned is, that when you try to open things up, particularly in areas of the country that are experiencing such high levels of illness, that there's a great risk for that'd be really stymied by what happened to the Marlins. I think it's not a surprise that if you're going to take any team that would have been affected, it would be the team that is in the part of the country that is currently experiencing such high levels of illness," Dr. Hirschwerk said. "I think that that type of experience could very well occur with other businesses or schools, if they are trying to open in parts of the country where they are also experiencing high levels of illness."

President Donald Trump had previously threatened to cut funds to schools that don't fully reopen for students and despite criticism from medical experts, schools across the country have been preparing to welcome students back in the fall.

However, Dr. Hirschwerk says what is happening in the MLB is a sign that "we should not be trying to open up businesses or schools that are in the midst of incredibly high levels of illness."

He pointed to the fact that Florida has a higher rate if illness per capita than just about any other part of the world.

"To think that you could open up schools or business widely in an area that is experiencing that, and not have a similar result, I think is just not realistic," Dr. Hirschwerk said.

While he says the New York area is "in very good shape right now," there is some concern for schools as well.

Just this week, a Westchester school that had reopened for in-person instruction during summer school was forced to close after three students and three staff members tested positive for the virus.

"I think that it should be recognized that as things open up, there are going to be cases that occur and so long as there's the ability to track those, to isolate the individuals that are infected, to trace their contacts and quarantine those people - that's going to be the way that we live with this virus until we get to the point where there is a vaccine and we're at a different stage," Dr. Hirschwerk said.

He suggests starting schools in a hybrid model is something that could be successful in areas that have the virus under control.

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