As more professional sports get closer to restarting, a number of COVID-19 cases in athletes were confirmed on Friday in everything from baseball to hockey to golf.
Reports indicate that Auston Matthews, the Toronto Maple Leafs star, is among them. The 22-year-old had been training in Arizona with teammate Frederik Andersen and players from the NHL’s Coyotes.
In a busy day of COVID-19-related developments, the Toronto Blue Jays closed down their training facility in Dunedin, Fla., after one player tested positive for the novel coronavirus. A few hours earlier, the Philadelphia Phillies shut down their complex in Clearwater after five players and three other staff members tested positive.
Dunedin and Clearwater are fewer than 10 kilometres apart, and Florida reported a record number of 3,822 new cases on Friday. Arizona is also among the states with surging numbers, with a record-high of 3,246 new cases.
The Blue Jays said everyone at their camp has been tested. The club said it was following protocols established by its medical team and Major League Baseball.
In nearby Tampa on Thursday, the Lightning shuttered their facility after three players and additional employees also tested positive.
General manager Julien BriseBois said in a statement that the players are self-isolating and are asymptomatic, “other than a few cases of low-grade fever.”
BriseBois said the facility would be closed until a safe environment existed for reopening.
The sudden closing occurred two weeks after NHL players had begun to return for voluntary workouts, skating in groups of six at a time. The league, which suspended play on March 12 because of the spread of the virus, hopes to be able to resume with playoff games at the end of next month or the beginning of August.
Friday’s troubling news came as the federal government announced that it was willing to work with the NHL to help create a postseason hub city in Canada. The league has said it would prefer to resume with games played by 24 teams at only two sites.
Arrangements are being made to allow players from American teams to cross the border without having to go into quarantine for 14 days. That removes a potential hurdle to bids being made by Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver to act as a host city.
Baseball players had only begun to work out recently as they try to reach a deal with owners over how to start the season amid the pandemic, including health protocols. The sides hoped to begin testing players on Tuesday and then begin a second round of spring training on June 26.
In the NHL, the Coyotes announced last weekend that one staff member had tested positive for the infectious respiratory illness.
An American golfer, Nick Watney, withdrew on Friday from the RBC Heritage in South Carolina ahead of the second round after he tested positive for COVID-19. Watney, who travelled privately to Hilton Head Island for the tournament, is the first player on the PGA Tour known to test positive.
The PGA said Watney reported he had symptoms Friday morning and was withdrawn from the event. He played the first round on Thursday in a group with fellow Americans Vaughn Taylor and Luke List.
Two Major League Soccer players also tested positive. One is a member of Inter Miami and the other plays for Atlanta United. Teams are preparing for the July 8 start of the MLS is Back Tournament in the Orlando area.
Matthews scored a team-high 47 goals for the Maple Leafs during the regular season and finished third in the league in that department, only one behind David Pastrnak of Boston and Alex Ovechkin of Washington.
Matthews would become the highest-profile player in hockey to come down with the infectious respiratory illness, and the second highest-profile player in any sport after Ezekiel Elliott of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. The All-Pro running back was diagnosed earlier in the week.
The Maple Leafs would not confirm if Matthews has been found to have COVID-19, although the NHL did confirm on Friday night in a statement that 11 players have tested positive since clubs opened their facilities on June 8.
“Per the National Hockey League protocol, [we] will not be commenting on reports surrounding testing for any of the club’s players or staff,” the organization said in a release Friday night. “A person’s medical information in this regard is private.
“The club will defer to the NHL’s policy on handling the disclosure of positive test results, in that the league will provide updates on a regular basis with aggregate totals of the number of tests conducted and number of positive tests reported without disclosing either the identities of affected clubs or players.”