Atlanta United’s Darren Eales: COVID-19 protocols are working

Eales said both players continue to show no symptoms and have remained in isolation since Wednesday, which was the last time the team trained as a team.  He called that a sign that the protocols put into place as safeguards against spreading COVID-19 are working.

“The reassuring thing is that it’s about making sure through the testing that you are taking place on a constant basis and the measures in place that you don’t have a growth in terms of players that are suffering from getting the COVID,” he said.

The club announced the two positive tests last week, first Thursday and then Saturday. Eales declined to name the players because of privacy concerns while reminding that the club was under no obligation to announce even the positive test results.

“We felt, given it was our first instance, that we should be as transparent as possible,” he said.

As a precaution, the club quit holding team training sessions and went to individual, non-contact sessions during the past few days. If all personnel test negative Monday, the team will resume full training Tuesday. 

Several MLS players, including Jeff Larentowicz and Brad Guzan, expressed concerns in past weeks about COVID-19 and the protocols and procedures for the MLS tournament in Orlando. 

Adding to general concerns, in the past days the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Orange County, which is where the players and personnel from 26 teams as well as the league will be housed at the Swan and Dolphin Resort and will play at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, has increased in record numbers, with 4,913 cases as of Saturday. 

Eales said he had no specific concerns about Orange County and that no Atlanta United players have said that they will refuse to travel with the team and participate in the tournament because of COVID-related concerns. MLS has adopted a lengthy lists of actions and precautions, compiled with help from doctors for the league, the MLSPA, the federal government and the state of Florida, for the tournament.

“They are professional. They understand this is part of the procedure, and I think, to be honest, like I said this is reassuring because it shows that the testing is working and it’s limiting any potential exposure,” he said.

Eales also said Atlanta United has no threshold for a number of positive tests that would cause it as a club to reconsider participating in the tournament.

“While we have the medical protocol here at the training ground, and we far exceed what the MLS has in terms of the sort of protocols, we obviously can’t control the environment outside of training,” he said. “That will be different once we get to Orlando because we are in a so-called bubble. That will be a little different.”

The tournament schedule hasn’t been announced by the league. Eales said Atlanta United will travel to central Florida seven days before its first game.

Eales said players are supposed to log where they’ve been outside of the training ground, but that the team doesn’t know how the players contracted the virus. There were 48 hours between the two positive tests for both players. Because both players are asymptomatic, neither would have known they were positive if not for the consistent testing. The players must clear MLS rules before they can re-join the team. Eales said the two players are eager to resume training.

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