Even as coronavirus (COVID-19) cases surge within the state, it seems many Florida residents aren’t taking health and safety protocols seriously. Just ask Kevan Smith.
The Rays catcher shared his experience with reporters Saturday as Tampa Bay and other MLB teams continue to prepare for a shortened 2020 season. Smith, a Pittsburgh native, said Pennsylvania and Florida are essentially two different worlds when it comes to wearing masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Smith’s full comments, per The Athletic’s Josh Tolentino:
“Pennsylvania feels like a lot different up there than down here. Obviously the numbers are a lot worse here. But I felt like you couldn’t even walk outside without a mask on [at home]. And then here [in Florida], you go out with a mask and we have guys getting called names and all of the above. So just a totally different feel around the country. [A Rays teammate] was in a store shopping for food and was called a pansy. It’s like little do they know.
“I went out briefly to just pick up some takeout food and I swear I got like a dozen eyeballs on me looking at me like I’m the weird [one] walking in with my mask. Little do they know what is at stake for my life and for my livelihood. It’s just very immature or whatever you want to call it. But it’s just comical, I mean it. It’s going on all over the world. We’re seeing it firsthand here, so we’ve just got to stick within our realm and just do what we’ve got to do to stay responsible and everything should be fine.”
The Florida Department of Health reported more than 10,000 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, bringing the total number of cases in the state to 254,511. Public health experts have emphasized the importance of wearing masks to decrease the chance of infecting others, and new research shows face coverings can also lower the wearer’s risk of infection by 65 percent.
Aside from general concerns in hotspots like Florida, MLB is dealing with its own coronavirus-related issues. Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant recently questioned the league’s COVID-19 testing methods, noting some players had only been tested once in a span of seven days.
“I don’t want to be insensitive to people who haven’t been able to get tests, but as the country gets access to more of those, it’s appropriate to talk about our situation here,” Bryant said Monday. “What we agreed to was testing every other day, and we’ve had guys who showed up on Sunday [June 28] and hadn’t got tested again [until] seven days later. And you don’t get the results until two days later. That’s nine days without knowing.
“If we want this to succeed, we have to figure this out. I wanted to play this year because I thought it would be safe. Honestly, I don’t really feel that.”
Combine the rise of COVID-19 cases in the general population, MLB’s flawed testing system and a fast-approaching Opening Day, and it’s fair to wonder if this season will actually be completed.
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