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Two more Cardinals players test positive for COVID-19; next step unknown as series vs. Cubs postponed

Two more Cardinals players test positive for COVID-19; next step unknown as series vs. Cubs postponed

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Cardinals play second game of opening weekend.

Seats sit empty during the fifth inning of a baseball game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on Saturday, July 25, 2020. The game is the second of a shortened 60 game season due to COVID-19 concerns. Photo by Colter Peterson, cpeterson@post-dispatch.com

Hours before they expected to return to play against the Cubs, their weekend in quarantine behind them, the Cardinals have been thrust back into uncertainty and concern with the revelation two more players and a staff member has tested positive for COVID-19.

Cardinals outfielder Austin Dean and reliever Ryan Helsley tested positive for the virus, the team learned late Thursday. Additionally, an unidentified staff member tested positive for the virus.

Those new positives prompted the postponement of the Cardinals series against the Cubs and plunged the team back into rounds of testing.

During the ongoing outbreak, the Cardinals have had nine players test positive and seven staff members.

The Cardinals are in the process of going through additional tests Friday afternoon. They will also test Saturday. They are also conducting contact tracing to determine how much exposure they have since returning to the field Wednesday afternoon, multiples sources confirm. This means retracing the steps of the individual who tested positive.

This contact tracing element of the Cardinals' response is pivotal because the team reunited Wednesday morning in Milwaukee and has spent time together on a plane and at the ballpark the past few days.

All players who traveled with the team would have had at least five consecutive days of negative tests through MLB labs.

The Cardinals have traced one exposure back to Milwaukee and one of the other positive tests weaves back to the concerns coming out of Minneapolis. The Cardinals believe the initial contact that introduced the virus to their clubhouse came in St. Louis before the team's road trip.

As a result of this past weekend's outbreak, the Cardinals did enact additional measures of protection that included increased use of masks at the ballpark and clearer guidelines on physical distancing and contact. Many players wore masks on the field when they were doing everything but pitching or hitting, and for the first time all players also wore masks during Zoom interviews with the media.

Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said of the team: "We probably won't hardly interact at all."

Their ability to isolate from one another again becomes key to identifying and slowing the spread of the virus. The Cardinals attempted to do this in Milwaukee and were able to identify players who had been in close contact and had a probability of testing positive.

Several of the Cardinals who tested positive coming out of the series in Minnesota would have had interactions in the bullpen.

In the past 48 hours, the team has flown together from Milwaukee to St. Louis, practiced together twice at Busch Stadium, and returned to their homes.

Members of the Cardinals' traveling party have been testing every day.

They have been taking the saliva exams that are processed by MLB's labs, and they have been getting results within 24 hours. Standard practice is to now respond with rapid tests to quickly get a handle on the new positive and where the virus might spread next.

The team needed to have two consecutive days of no new positives to leave their quarantine at a Milwaukee hotel. They received word that they had no new positives on Monday and Tuesday tests, as administered by MLB, and that allowed them to leave the hotel and Milwaukee on Wednesday morning.

The Cardinals had 13 members of their traveling party test positive for COVID-19 while they were on the most recent road trip. Of those 13, seven were players. Six chose to identify themselves: All-Stars Yadier Molina and Paul DeJong, relievers Junior Fernandez and Kodi Whitley, infielders Rangelo Ravelo and Edmundso. The Cardinals also placed pitcher Carlos Martinez on the injured list, though Martinez has, through his representative, twice declined to reveal the results of his test or nature of his injury.

Several of the players had mild symptoms of the virus, ranging from coughs to headaches and low-grade fevers. All of the players had seen improvement in their symptoms by Thursday, Shildt said. Some members of the support staff had more serious symptoms and were ill, the manager said. He added that no one had acute enough symptoms to be hospitalized.

The 13 members of the traveling party who tested positive were removed from the team and sent back to St. Louis in an attempt to rebuild the bubble around the team while self-isolating at the hotel in Milwaukee.

The players were not permitted out of their room except for testing for most of six consecutive days.

The Friday game is the Cardinals' eighth consecutive postponed game.

The postponed series means 10 consecutive games for the Cardinals, and there is no indication at all when they'll next play.

The Cubs-Cardinals game on Sunday was set to be the ESPN showcase.

Due to seven postponed games, the Cardinals were about to start a stretch of 55 games in 52 days. This postponement makes their schedule entirely uncertain.

Players converged on Busch Stadium from either traveling with the team from Milwuakee or joining the team out of the alternate-site camp in Springfield, Mo. The Cardinals added four players from the alternate-site camp Wednesday to the workouts. All of them had previously undergone regular testing and received negative tests before traveling to join the big-league roster.

On Friday, Major League Baseball and the players' union released the updated information on the ongoing testing of players and staff during the regular season. The leagues call this "monitoring testing."

There have been 13,043 test samples collected in the past week, and of that group 13 have tested positive. That includes seven players and six staff members. The Cardinals are the majority of those positive tests. 

On four of the last seven days MLB has not had a new positive, and the Cardinals had three consecutive days of that.

During the regular season, a total of 71 new positives have been revealed from 53,826 samples. That number includes 49 players. Nineteen of the 30 major-league clubs have had at least one positive test during the regular season. The two outbreaks have been with the Marlins and Cardinals. 

The Marlins returned to play this past weekend.

The Post-Dispatch baseball reporter tells of the tradition that binds newspapers and baseball.

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