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Flurry of positive coronavirus tests in athletes hurts U.S. restart plans



(Reuters) – Hopes that sport in the United States might soon return to business as usual suffered a blow on Friday as athletes from golf to hockey tested positive for the novel coronavirus, triggering a shutdown of some facilities.

The PGA Tour, which only restarted last week after a three-month COVID-19-forced hiatus, confirmed its first positive test, removing Nick Watney from second-round play at the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Over a 24-hour period, Major League Soccer, National Football League, National Hockey League and Major League Baseball confirmed positive tests, and those sports pondered return-to-play scenarios. Leagues are doing extensive testing for coronavirus even among players not showing symptoms.

This followed leading U.S. health official Dr. Anthony Fauci on Thursday casting doubt on whether the NFL would get on the field this season.

MLS and the National Basketball Association were paying particularly close attention to Friday’s events as many of the positive tests occurred in Florida where both leagues have announced plans to restart their seasons at Orlando’s Walt Disney (NYSE:) World.

Florida is one of several U.S. states that have seen their number of COVID-19 cases surge recently.

The MLS is set to return on July 8 with a World Cup-style tournament featuring all 26 teams.

Asked if the spike in cases in Florida would prompt a rethink of restart plans, MLS did not immediately respond.

The league had said that the safety and health of the players and staff were the top priority.

Inter Miami said on Thursday that one of their players had tested positive for the virus.

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MLB’s Philadelphia Phillies shut down their Clearwater, Florida, site after five players tested positive while just down the road in Dunedin, the Toronto Blue Jays shuttered training facilities after a player presented symptoms.

In nearby Tampa, the NHL Lightning closed their arena after three players tested positive.

Even the UFC, who were one of the first sports to resume operations when they staged a mixed martial arts card in Jacksonville, Florida on May 9, are considering another shutdown in wake of the spike.

“I told you guys going into this thing, I’m always thinking about what’s next,” said UFC President Dana White in a report by MMA Junkie. “And I’m planning for a second shutdown, that it will happen again.

“I’m always thinking about the worst.”

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