As soon as Matt Barnes’ positive test result for COVID-19 came back early Saturday morning, a number of protocols were set in motion in an effort to control the spread of the extremely contagious coronavirus. Here is a look at what that means:
▪ Positive test: As of now, Barnes is the only known member of the organization to test positive for COVID-19. Any individual who tests positive — including Barnes, who is asymptomatic — must quarantine for a minimum of 10 days from the date of the test that returned a positive result. Barnes took the test on March 25, so he cannot return before April 5. His clearance to return requires that he remains asymptomatic, undergoes a cardiac evaluation, and is cleared both by Red Sox medical director Larry Ronan and a Joint COVID-19 Health and Safety Committee, which consists of one MLB and one MLB Players Association representative and two physicians.
▪ Contact tracing: Once the positive test result became known, the Red Sox were required to start a contact tracing investigation. The investigation relies on data provided from Kinexon bracelets that members of the organization put on upon arrival at JetBlue Park and wear throughout their work days. The bracelets track movements — and, critically, where and how much time individuals spend within six feet of each other. The team also discussed with Barnes any interactions he had while away from the park.
▪ The investigation: All MLB teams are required to have a designated contact tracing officer who oversees the effort to identify close contacts and serves as the point person for communication regarding contract tracing with the Commissioner’s Office, the Joint COVID-19 Health and Safety Committee, other teams, and Kinexon. Doing that for the Red Sox is Taylor Boucher, a minor league trainer in the organization prior to this year, but other members of the organization — notably including head athletic trainer Brad Pearson — are also involved.
▪ Close contacts: Through Sunday morning, according to a Major League source, eight members of the Red Sox organization had entered “close contact” protocols, which require an individual to isolate from the team for at least seven days. The CDC defines a “close contact” as someone who spends at least 15 minutes over a 24-hour period within six feet of an individual who tests positive. However, departures from that working definition are possible depending on the type and location of an interaction, such as whether it took place indoors or outdoors or whether the potential close contact previously had COVID-19 with a likelihood of immunity.
The beginning of the relevant period of “close contact” starts two days prior to the test that yielded a positive result, meaning that anyone who was in “close contact” with Barnes starting on Tuesday would have to isolate for at least seven days from their last close contact with the pitcher. For example: A player who came in close contact with Barnes on Tuesday, March 23, (but not after) would have to isolate from the team through at least Tuesday, March 30. Provided that player remained asymptomatic and had a negative PCR test on the fifth day (or later) of isolation, he could rejoin the team on Wednesday, March 31 — one day before Opening Day. If someone came into close contact with Barnes on Friday, his last day around teammates, he or she could not rejoin the team until Saturday, April 3.
An individual must receive a written note from the Joint Committee before returning.
▪ Extra scrutiny contacts: Individuals who were around Barnes to a meaningful degree sometime between last Tuesday and Friday, but fell short of the “close contact” definition, are known as “extra scrutiny contacts.” So long as they remain asymptomatic, those individuals can continue to participate in team activities, but are subject to increased daily testing and heightened protocols such as required surgical masks at all times, both at and away from the park.
Those who had previously tested positive for COVID-19 within the last three months would not be subject to extra scrutiny contact restrictions unless they developed symptoms of the virus.