STANFORD (KPIX) — Ballparks across the country have shut down but Major League Baseball’s 30 teams are playing a big role in finding out how widespread COVID-19 really is.

It’s a first-of-its-kind, nationwwide antibody study that could be key to opening up America’s economy amid the coronavirus pandemic. It’s being conducted in the Bay Area at Stanford University and involves the Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants.

New data from the research is coming in this week.

Major League Baseball got involved soon after delaying its season. When the pandemic hit, it also quickly shut down a science lab that normally tests players for performance-enhancing drugs.

“We called them up and asked them ‘are you interested in doing a nationwide study? They said absolutely’,” said SMRTL president Daniel Eichner.

Eichner teamed up with longtime colleague and Stanford University physician and professor Jay Bhattacharya.

“We’re going to be able to have a look at how extensive COVID infection is in a whole bunch of cities and throughout the United States,” Dr. Bhattacharya said.

The single-prick test looks antibodies in blood. The body makes these when it fights an infection.

The researchers sent 10,000 of these tests to MLB teams.

“We’re also sampling not just athletes but also employees and people who work for MLB including concessionaires and people who do security at the parks,” Dr. Bhattacharya said.

A nationwide test like this can normally take months or even years but, in this case, the numbers are already coming in because of the MLB’s help.

“They recognized there was a gap in knowledge and that they could use its nationwide coverage to contribute,” Eichner said.

“We’re going to start to know much better what we’re dealing with very soon and hope this will lead to our ability to lift up the economic caps in a safe way,” said Bhattacharya.

The final data set from MLB is coming in Thursday night. There will be a lot of number crunching and analyzing before it is published and released to the public within a couple weeks.

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