Eric Paul Justin, MD, MPH, MBA
9 July 2020

Baseball is just one of numerous activities that we have either given up or which have been stalled or changed since the beginning of 2020. As a longtime baseball fan, the issue of ‘missing baseball’ started months ago when spring training basically didn’t happen. Following that ‘wrench in the gears,’ things got worse. The entire season seemed to have come to an end. In addition to pandemic related causes there were the common, prolonged negotiations about money. Now, finally we may actually have a season opener later this July.

Great…right?

My answer is mixed. I love that baseball will be played and fans will resume a great pastime which we have done in our country for many decades. I am still quite saddened. Why? To me baseball is much, much bigger than the ‘majors.’ Baseball is boys and girls on fields throughout towns and cities and in countrysides around the entire country.

Baseball is about all ages coming together, whether on the field or in the stands.

And while baseball can have it’s knocks and bruises it was always a safe sport and pastime with very few exceptions. Now the simple act of  being close to others may cause illness and possibly worse. The crowds we are used to being a part of for games of any kind have become the proverbial ‘petri dish’ where we ‘catch the virus’ and pass it on to others. It is a hard if not cruel tradeoff isn’t it? A few hours of ‘normal’ while watching the game versus the consequences of contracting the novel coronavirus and passing it on to others.

The openings which have occurred across the country in the past few months have not worked out well. At least thirty-one states are now seeing significantly increased numbers of viral cases. The percentages of positive tests is well above the desired level and rising in virtually all of those places. Multiple cities in those states are running out of intensive care unit beds. The death rates vary but persistently deliver bad news on a daily basis if not more frequently.

To add to the mix is a rising concern over airborne transmission of the virus beyond aerosol spread as seen with sneezing, coughing, or talking loudly or yelling. The smaller viral loads not only seem to travel farther than previously thought. The smaller particles float and persist for many minutes or even longer. This is worsened by being indoors. What this means is the virus spreads much more easily than we thought.

Sadly another concerning set of facts is arising from the many younger (under 50 years old) patients. They may do well in the early or acute phase of the infection. Unfortunately it is becoming clearer that many will develop complications weeks and even months later. These include scarring and fibrosis of the lungs as well as complications involving the brain or central nervous system. Experts are very concerned that these delayed findings are resulting in long standing or chronic changes that may well be disabling for those patients.

Not much has changed regarding vaccines or medications, though some progress is being made. The solutions to our problem haven’t changed and still include:

  • face masks
  • physical/social distancing
  • increased hand washing/hand sanitizer use
  • cleaning heavily used surfaces in our homes

So, we can still enjoy the time honored words…”Play Ball.” This will require persistent vigilance for our ‘viral hygiene.’ We all need to understand what is safe and when in doubt I encourage a ‘safety first’ approach. This may mean a gracious ‘no thank you’ to an invitation now and then.

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