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Justin Turner’s positive COVID test: Should he have celebrated with teammates?

Henry Bushnell
·4-min read

The Los Angeles Dodgers are World Series champs. Their Game 6 victory, however, was slightly marred by an eighth-inning substitution. Manager Dave Roberts pulled third baseman Justin Turner. After the game, it was revealed that Turner had tested positive for COVID-19. Nonetheless, Turner returned to the field roughly an hour after the game to celebrate with teammates.

That incongruity raised all sorts of questions: Why did the Dodgers pull Turner in the first place? And why was he allowed in close contact with teammates after the game?

Here’s what Turner’s positive test means for MLB, Turner’s Dodger teammates and Turner himself.

Why did the Dodgers wait until the 8th inning to pull Turner?

Because they didn’t yet know Turner had tested positive. According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Turner’s Monday test came back inconclusive. The Dodgers reportedly learned this during the second inning on Tuesday. Because inconclusive does not necessarily mean positive — and could very well have meant negative — the Dodgers were not required to remove their star from the game.

Later Tuesday night, however, Tuesday’s tests were run, and Turner’s came back positive. At this point, per ESPN, officials immediately called the Dodgers, who substituted Turner to prevent further spread of the virus to teammates and coaches.

How and when did Justin Turner get COVID?

We don’t know how. We can, however, guess when.

MLB players are tested every day. The virus usually takes 3-7 days to incubate. If Turner’s Monday test came back inconclusive, and his Tuesday test came back positive, he likely contracted the virus 3-7 days before Monday — so sometime last week.

What are the chances Turner infected his Dodger teammates?

Just because Turner likely contracted the virus last week does not mean he was capable of infecting teammates last week. Experts don’t yet have a clear understanding of the relationship between the point at which an individual becomes capable of testing positive and the point at which they become infectious. But most assume it’s around the same time.

This means Turner likely became infectious on Monday, and could have infected teammates on Monday or Tuesday – depending, of course, on his proximity to those teammates and the duration of his close contact with them. Of note: Monday was an off day in the series.

Does that mean the Dodgers should curtail their celebrations?

Even if Turner did infect teammates on Monday, though, chances are those teammates aren’t infectious 24 hours later. Again, the virus can take 2-14 days to incubate, per the CDC, and often takes 3-7 days, per epidemiologists. Which means that yes, some other Dodgers might have contracted COVID; but on Tuesday night, chances are they aren’t yet capable of spreading it to others. It’s probably OK to celebrate freely.

But should Turner be celebrating with them?

No. This is the easiest question of all. Turner appeared on the field roughly an hour after the game, to pose with teammates and the World Series trophy. At first, he was wearing a mask. Then he ripped it off.

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 27:  The Los Angeles Dodgers pose for a photo after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 in Game Six to win the 2020 MLB World Series at Globe Life Field on October 27, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
The Los Angeles Dodgers pose for a photo after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 in Game Six to win the 2020 MLB World Series. Justin Turner, seated in the middle, returned for the team photo. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Turner is almost certainly infectious now. Any close contact with teammates represents risk. That Turner says he feels “great,” with “no symptoms at all,” is excellent news for his personal health … but meaningless to his teammates’ health. He is still capable of spreading the virus asymptomatically. While the Dodgers can likely celebrate safely as a team, Turner, unfortunately, can’t celebrate safely with them.

According to reports, the entire Dodgers roster will be given rapid tests upon returning to the team hotel.

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