Coronavirus update: MLB Opening Day pushed back at least two weeks as league makes COVID-19 decision

Major League Baseball will suspend operations for at least the next four weeks, including the rest of spring training and the start of the regular season, the league announced. The decision came following a conference call between the owners about how to respond to the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak. Spring training games in Florida started as scheduled on Thursday afternoon, but the league ceased operations at 4 p.m. ET.

Opening Day was originally scheduled for March 26. Regular season games now will begin on April 9 at the earliest.

Here’s the full league release:

Following a call with the 30 Clubs, and after consultation with the Major League Baseball Players Association, Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. today announced that MLB has decided to suspend Spring Training games and to delay the start of the 2020 regular season by at least two weeks due to the national emergency created by the coronavirus pandemic.  This action is being taken in the interests of the safety and well-being of our players, Clubs and our millions of loyal fans. 

MLB will continue to evaluate ongoing events leading up to the start of the season.  Guidance related to daily operations and workouts will be relayed to Clubs in the coming days.  As of 4:00 p.m. (ET) today, forthcoming Spring Training games have been cancelled, and 2020 World Baseball Classic Qualifier games in Tucson, Arizona have been postponed indefinitely.

MLB and the Clubs have been preparing a variety of contingency plans regarding the 2020 regular season schedule.  MLB will announce the effects on the schedule at an appropriate time and will remain flexible as events warrant, with the hope of resuming normal operations as soon as possible.

Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our players, employees and fans.  MLB will continue to undertake the precautions and best practices recommended by public health experts.  We send our best wishes to all individuals and communities that have been impacted by coronavirus.

The NBA became the first American professional sports league to take major action related to coronavirus when it suspended its season Wednesday night shortly after Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. The NHL and MLS announced similar suspensions of their seasons on Thursday.

MLB originally looked into formulating alternative plans for regular season games. MLB was thinking about using different sites for games once the 2020 regular season got underway in late March, Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal reports. 

As of Wednesday, MLB was trying to formulate alternative plans for regular season games in the event that the ongoing outbreak makes it impractical to proceed with the schedule as planned. MLB is looking into different sites for games once the 2020 regular season gets underway in late March, Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal reports. The MLB Players Association also released a statement Wednesday, saying the group is working with MLB to “develop contingency plans.”

Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that can cause illnesses as minor as a cold, or as serious as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), according to the World Health Organization. The virus can cause symptoms including fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But while some patients only show mild symptoms and recover, others have developed life-threatening complications, such as pneumonia, CBS News reports. 

CBS News has the latest updates about the virus, which has affected various sports globally and in the United States and has at present caused more than 4,000 fatalities worldwide. Here at CBS Sports we have a running updates on how sports leagues are responding to coronavirus. 

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