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Justin Turner’s Positive COVID-19 Test Raises Many Questions

The Dodgers third baseman returned to the field to celebrate L.A.’s victory with his teammates despite being removed from the game in the eighth inning for a positive test

World Series - Tampa Bay Rays v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Six Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The 2020 MLB season began with a star player removed from his team’s lineup: Juan Soto didn’t play on the season’s opening night, or in any of the Nationals’ first eight games, due to a positive COVID-19 test.

The 2020 MLB season ended much the same way: Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner left the clinching Game 6 of the World Series in the eighth inning after a positive test of his own.

In the moment, the Fox broadcast team was confused about the reason for Turner’s departure. But between the game’s—and season’s—final out and the trophy presentation, Fox reported Turner’s positive test, and a whole host of further questions rose from there.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, in the second inning of Tuesday’s game, the lab performing tests for MLB found an inconclusive result for Turner’s Monday sample. It then ran the third baseman’s just-arrived sample from Tuesday, which tested positive, and informed the club, which removed Turner from the game. Fox’s Ken Rosenthal further reported that Turner’s test was not a false positive.

But that result evidently didn’t stop Turner, who wrote on Twitter shortly after the game that he felt “great” with “no symptoms at all,” from returning to the field for the postgame celebration. He hugged Clayton Kershaw while both veterans were wearing masks, held the trophy being passed around from player to player, and removed his mask while sitting next to teammates and coaches for a group photograph.

Minutes earlier in an on-field interview, commissioner Rob Manfred said, “We learned during the game that Justin was positive and immediately isolated him to prevent the spread.”

Rosenthal reported that Turner was “told not to go on the field, or asked not to go on the field.” But, Rosenthal continued, “he insisted upon it, the Dodgers insisted upon it, and that is why he was out there.” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told the New York Daily News’ Bradford William Davis, “He wanted to be on the field and take a picture with the trophy … I don’t think there was anyone that was going to stop him from going out.”

As of last Friday, MLB had reportedly gone 54 consecutive days without a positive test from a player. The altered playoff structure was designed to limit the possibility of infection, with no intraseries travel—all World Series games were played at Globe Life Park in Texas—and a so-called “bubble” environment. (Despite this designation, MLB also allowed the park to be filled to roughly 25 percent capacity with fans.)

The rest of the Dodgers will be given a rapid test upon returning to their hotel Tuesday night, Passan reported, and their travel arrangements back to Los Angeles are unclear. Further questions remain: about the timing and circumstances of the first positive test in nearly two months, about MLB’s plans for “contact tracing,” and about Turner’s non-isolated movements after the clinching game.

In so many ways, from an altered schedule and rules, to a lack of fans until the final playoff rounds, to the frequent regular-season interruptions for intra-team outbreaks, the COVID-19 pandemic dominated the 2020 MLB season from the start. It didn’t stop at the end, either.