Another negative COVID-19 result for Rangers OF Joey Gallo raises questions about test accuracy

By Evan Grant

6:11 PM on Jul 7, 2020 CDT

ARLINGTON — As Major League Baseball reportedly seeks an additional lab to help ensure COVID-19 test results are returned to teams with expediency, the Rangers may have their own set of issues.

Just how accurate are the tests?

On Tuesday, outfielder Joey Gallo, who has not been allowed to participate in team workouts yet, tested negative for the coronavirus at a private Dallas laboratory using a nasal swab test. It was his second negative test in the last 10 days. But he’s also tested positive twice in the same span using the PCR/saliva test that MLB’s sanctioned lab — Utah-based Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratories — uses.

Gallo acknowledged frustration with the system Tuesday but declined further comment. His agent, Scott Boras, said he has submitted documentation to MLB to hopefully expedite Gallo’s return. Gallo was awaiting the results of another saliva test Tuesday evening.

“The process has proven that he’s negative on a number of occasions,” Boras said. “There are mechanisms in place to evaluate these cases individually. The [testing systems] are as accurate as accuracy allows, but there are still going to be false positives for maybe one or two percent of people. The best thing you can do is get as much evidence and testing as possible.”

Most of the concerns about the testing process have been problems related to receiving results, not necessarily accuracy. Several teams had to cancel workouts over the weekend because they did not receive results. In a statement Monday, MLB indicated that a series of logistics issues related to the Fourth of July weekend led to delays in some test results.

“Without accurate and timely testing it is simply not safe for us to continue with Summer Camp,” Washington GM Mike Rizzo said in a statement Monday. “Major League Baseball needs to work quickly to resolve issues with their process and their lab. Otherwise, Summer Camp and the 2020 season are at risk.”

On Tuesday, San Francisco suspended workouts at Oracle Park for lack of results, the Chicago Cubs delayed their workout and Philadelphia GM Matt Klentak told reporters that the club has not received any results from outfielder Adam Haseley’s intake testing.

Gallo was first tested on June 27 via a saliva test, which indicated the presence of coronavirus, although he’s been asymptomatic. He took a nasal swab test two days later, which deemed him negative. He then took another saliva test on July 2, and the Rangers received word Sunday that was positive again.

Gallo, 26, has missed the first five Rangers workouts. The season opener is scheduled for July 24 against Colorado, a mere 16 days away.

Boras said he represented another player who had been in a similar situation to Gallo, but that had since been resolved. The complicating factor are Gallo’s two positive results. According to MLB’s operations manual for the 2020 season, a player must test negative twice at least 24 hours apart to be cleared to join his team.

“We rightly want to protect these players’ health and safety related to the virus,” Boras said. “But the other factor is their ability to get ready for the season. We want and need these tests correctly to protect the players from getting the virus and we have to consider that, but we also have to consider the health and safety of the individual player. We need immediacy to the process so it doesn’t also impact the player’s ability to get ready for the season if there is supporting evidence behind him.”

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