Coronavirus outbreaks hitting sports teams in Florida

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TAMPA BAY, Fla. (WFLA) — As sports teams work to move forward and resume a sense of normalcy in the wake of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, potential outbreaks of the virus are hitting organizations.

At least five teams that play or practice in the Tampa Bay area have either confirmed cases of coronavirus or have a member of the organization presenting symptoms.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay’s NFL team confirmed Thursday an assistant coach tested positive for the virus. According to the Bucs, the assistant is asymptomatic. Just a few days later, ESPN reported at least two Buccaneers players tested positive as well.

The coach and two other Buccaneers assistants are now in quarantine. The organization has not released any of their names.

The Buccaneers coaches returned to One Buc Place for the first time on Monday. The NFL announced last week that virtual off-season programs have been extended through June 26, which means healthy players are not allowed at team facilities.

Some Bucs players, including quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski, have been holding their own practices at Tampa Bay area high schools.

Tampa Bay Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning confirmed Friday evening that three players and “additional staffers” tested positive for the virus. According to a statement from General Manager Julien BriseBois, most of the players are asymptomatic, “other than a few cases of low-grade fever.”

The Bolts shut down its training facilities after they were informed of the positive tests.

The NHL is currently in Phase 2 of its return to play. Teams were recently allowed to open facilities to player workouts with small groups on the ice. The Lightning recently progressed from mainly conditioning to scrimmages. The next phase, set to begin July 10, will allow formal training camps to begin.

Major League Baseball

The MLB announced late Friday that all spring training sites in Florida and Arizona were closing. Reports said all sites would undergo deep cleaning and players or staff members would not be allowed inside unless they passed a coronavirus test.

The announcement followed news of multiple players and staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.

New York Yankees

Several news outlets based in New York City reported Sunday that four members of the New York Yankees tested positive for coronavirus in Tampa. According to the New York Post, two of the members work at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa while the other two have ties to a nearby minor league complex.

That news came one day after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the Yankees would be holding spring training in New York instead of Tampa.

Philadelphia Phillies

The MLB team announced Friday that its spring training facility in Clearwater was closed “indefinitely” due to a coronavirus outbreak.

According to a spokesperson for the team, five players and three staff members tested positive. Dozens of other staff members and players are in the process of being tested.

The statement from the Phillies did not mention whether or not the players and staff member were showing symptoms.

Toronto Blue Jays

The Toronto MLB team announced Friday it was suspending operations at its spring training facility in Dunedin after a player “presented symptoms consistent with” coronavirus.

A spokesperson for the team says that player is undergoing coronavirus testing.

As of 7 p.m. Friday, they have not confirmed any of their players or staff members have tested positive. But the spokesperson says the team is following protocols and suspending operations for now in Pinellas County.

Orlando Pride

Orlando’s National Women’s Soccer League team announced Monday that six players and four staff members had tested positive for the virus. The club said everyone who tested positive is asymptomatic.

The Pride was set to play in the NWSL Challenge Cup starting at the end of the month. Due to the coronavirus outbreak on the team, they said they decided to withdraw.

USF Football

An athletics spokesperson confirmed earlier this week two University of South Florida football players tested positive for the virus. Those positive tests come one week after voluntary on-campus athletic activities started back up.

The statement from USF did not mention whether or not the players who tested positive were showing symptoms.

Moving forward

As more coronavirus cases are confirmed in athletes who are practicing or playing in the Tampa Bay area and other parts of Florida, NBA teams are set to arrive in Central Florida in the coming weeks. They will be staying and playing at Disney World.

The Associated Press reported this week that players must tell their teams by June 24 if they intend to play or not, according to a memo sent to NBPA members. If a player does not feel comfortable playing, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said they do not have to report with their team and will not be disciplined, other than losing salary for games missed, the AP reported.

Most teams will arrive in Florida on July 7, 8 or 9.

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