Fairbanks Goldpanners baseball player flew home after testing positive for COVID-19

·3 min read

Jun. 19—One of the eight Fairbanks Goldpanners baseball players who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month flew home to Utah after getting his test results, the team's general manager said Friday.

John Lohrke didn't identify the player who traveled but said the player left the same night as a team meeting in which players were told about the outbreak.

"We gathered the players in the clubhouse and said, 'You aren't going anywhere; this is what we've learned and we're going to test everybody.' That night he got with his father on the phone and (his father) wanted him home, and he left in the night," Lohrke said.

"I can't hold him," he added. "He's an adult."

Alaska does not require air travelers to be tested for the novel coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people who have recently tested positive for COVID-19 should not travel and recommends those who aren't fully vaccinated to delay travel.

About 50% of the Goldpanners are vaccinated, Lohrke said.

"We can't demand it, because they're not employees of ours," he said.

The Goldpanners are one of six summer-league baseball teams that feature college baseball players who come to Alaska from various colleges across the country. The Goldpanners operate independently from the five-team Alaska Baseball League, which has two teams in Anchorage, one in Chugiak, one in Palmer and one in Kenai.

Neither the Goldpanners nor the ABL have written COVID-19 policies.

Chris Beck, the president of the ABL and manager of the Chugiak Chinooks, said the ABL leaves mitigation up to each team.

"Everybody has their own (plan), but honestly, when the city opened up everything, it kind of went away," Beck said. "It's basically CDC stuff.

"... We operate by the CDC standard. If they're feeling bad, they don't come in or we send them home."

Two ABL players have been tested, Beck said, and both were negative.

About 90% of ABL players are vaccinated, he said.

Lohrke said the Goldpanners leave medical matters — including those regarding COVID-19 — to a team of health care providers. Among those advising the Goldpanners, he said, are Foundation Health Partners physicians Kathleen Carey — who is also one of the team's summer parents, who house out-of-town players during the season — and Cary Keller.

"There's nothing that's not being done properly," Lohrke said. "We're doing things the way you're supposed to, with direction coming from local health authorities."

A total of nine team members tested positive for COVID-19, including a coach, he said. Only one has left Alaska.

He said the Goldpanners are undergoing daily testing "for those that now require it."

Testing wasn't happening at the beginning of the season, he said, but "we are now, to anyone that hits town." He didn't say what triggered the tests.

The Goldpanners opened their season with road games in Seattle and Kenai. They're currently playing a string of games of Growden Memorial Park in Fairbanks, although a couple of games earlier this week were canceled when the COVID-19 outbreak left the Goldpanners short of players.

The annual Midnight Sun Game is set for Monday night.

The Goldpanners are scheduled to make an extended road trip from June 28 to July 8 that includes several games in Washington as well as single games in Anchorage, Palmer and Kenai.

The NCAA recently published guidelines for college athletes participating in summer activities, which say "fully vaccinated athletes and other fully vaccinated athletics personnel should be able to engage in summer 2021 athletics activities without wearing a mask or physical distancing."

"Unvaccinated athletes and athletics personnel should consider wearing masks and/or remaining physically distant during all athletics activities unless the population has reached a critical threshold of 85% immunity and the community transmission is low," the NCAA says.

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