Philadelphia Phillies: 5 players, 3 staffers test positive for COVID-19 in Clearwater, Florida

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Five players for the Philadelphia Phillies have tested positive for COVID-19 at the team's spring camp in Florida, prompting the club to indefinitely close the complex.

The team also said Friday that three staff members at the camp have tested positive. The club didn't identify any of those affected.

Philadelphia has shut the camp in Clearwater, Florida, to players, coaches and staff while medical authorities assess the situation.

The announcement came while Major League Baseball owners and players try to negotiate a deal to begin the season amid the coronavirus pandemic, including health protocols. Some players had been recently been working out at spring training sites while practicing social distancing.

The sides had hoped to have players begin testing Tuesday and then begin a second round of spring training on June 26. Most teams would likely hold those workouts at their home ballparks, rather than at their spring camps in Florida and Arizona.

"In terms of the implications of this outbreak on the Phillies' 2020 season, the club declines comment, believing that it is too early to know," the team said.

In a statement, managing partner John Middleton said, "The Phillies are committed to the health and welfare of our players, coaches and staff as our highest priority."

"As a result of these confirmed tests, all facilities in Clearwater have been closed indefinitely to all players, coaches and staff and will remain closed until medical authorities are confident that the virus is under control and our facilities are disinfected."

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Action News got reaction from Phillies fans after word that players were diagnosed with COVID-19.

The Phillies said the first confirmed case occurred Tuesday. The club said eight staff members have tested negative for the virus, while 12 staff members and 20 players - both major leaguers and minor leaguers - living in the Clearwater area are being tested.

The Phillies closed their facility in March when the coronavirus pandemic shut down sports. Players returning from injuries were allowed to continue their rehab after the facility was cleaned thoroughly. A few of the team's athletic trainers and staff remained to supervise and safety precautions were taken.

Several more players began working out at the facility over the past few weeks but group sizes were limited. The outbreak occurs as Florida has experienced rising incidents of new cases and rates of those testing positive for COVID-19.

Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases in Florida has increased by 1,422.7, or 144.4%.

South Philadelphia resident Marc Hinkle said, "You should care about the health of the players."

While concern surrounds the players health, Hinkle still hopes there will be a MLB season. "I think the players that do have it should follow the CDC quarantine. I think practices should go on as long as no one else has symptoms or anything like that."

According to sources, 12 staff members and 20 players are in the process of being tested for COVID-19.

James Lewis of South Philadelphia said, "I don't think it should stop but just take more precautions."

Fans also say they'd still go to games. "if there are hand sanitizer stations, you have to wear a mask outdoors, you know, I'd still would bring my family," said Erick Ares of Chinatown. "I still would honestly. I'm a big sports fan."

But this now raises new concerns can team sports really reopen safely?

Jack Thompson of South Philadlephia said, "I know Dr. Fauci came out and said he doesn't think there will be football this year. I would like to see sports but at the ends of the day if it is people's lives on the line these athletes are people."

Thompson says he believes putting their health first is important since they all have families

Along with the Phillies, the Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Lightening have all shut down their facilities until further notice as they too are located in the Clearwater area.
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