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Orioles following CDC playbook after coronavirus scare hits close to home in Sarasota

Orioles players stretch and take part in conditioning drills before practice begins at the Ed Smith Stadium complex on Feb. 19, 2020.
Orioles players stretch and take part in conditioning drills before practice begins at the Ed Smith Stadium complex on Feb. 19, 2020. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun)

SARASOTA, FLORIDA — A case of coronavirus being treated in the Orioles’ spring training home of Sarasota, Florida, has the club and Major League Baseball taking steps to protect players and fans.

“The health and safety of our fans, players and staff will always be our top priority," Orioles senior vice president Jennifer Grondahl wrote in an email. "We are acting on recommendations from the CDC and Major League Baseball and encourage everyone to be educated on the guidelines established by relevant public health organizations.”

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According to a report from ESPN, MLB has no plans to cancel spring training or regular-season games but recommended several steps to teams, including players not directly taking baseballs or pens for autographs from fans and avoiding handshakes with fans.

Additionally, ESPN reported that the nearby Pittsburgh Pirates sterilized their entire spring training facility in Bradenton on their scheduled day off Tuesday, which is located in Manatee County.

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis asked state surgeon general Dr. Scott Rivkees to declare a public health emergency Sunday night because of the state’s two first confirmed cases of the virus, which has impacted thousands over the last month as it has spread around the world after an outbreak in China.

Those two cases — a Manatee County man in his 60s and a Hillsborough County woman in her 20s — are part of a growing caseload in the United States.

Florida officials said the woman had recently traveled to northern Italy, a region hit particularly hard by the outbreak, while the man had no such travel history and wasn’t known to have come into contact with anyone who has the virus. A third case of a person who lives with the Hillsborough County resident was reported Tuesday.

One of the patients is being treated at Doctors Hospital of Sarasota, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. That facility is about seven miles from the Orioles’ spring training stadium.

Additionally, the Sarasota Military Academy, which is two miles from Ed Smith Stadium, announced on its Facebook page that a parent and student were quarantined after coming in contact with the woman who had a presumptive positive test.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases

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Officials said at a Monday news conference that the risk to the general public in Florida was low, though Tuesday the case count in the United States climbed over 100 in 15 states. There are an estimated 90,000 cases worldwide.

Earlier this spring, an unspecified illness impacted the spring training schedules of several players including first baseman Chris Davis, outfielder Trey Mancini, and pitchers Alex Cobb, Mychal Givens and Hunter Harvey. Manager Brandon Hyde said at the time that the team was preaching hygiene and providing plenty of hand sanitizer for players and staff to keep that illness contained.

Close quarters in spring training means such illnesses can spread easily, but coronavirus itself hasn’t affected the game itself yet. The Tampa Bay Times reported Monday that Rays’ South Korean first baseman Ji-Man Choi was conducting his interviews with traveling media from his home country outside of the clubhouse as a precaution.

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