Zika Fears Lead MLB to Move Puerto Rico Series

     (CN) — A two-game series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Miami Marlins planned for Puerto Rico has been moved due to concerns over the Zika virus, Major League Baseball said Friday.
     The league said the teams will instead play on May 30 and 31 at Marlins Park in Miami.
     The Major League Baseball Players Association had asked league commissioner Rob Manfred to relocate the series after players from both teams expressed concerns that they might contract the mosquito-borne virus and transmit it to their partners.
     “The Pirates are disappointed that we will not be playing in San Juan this season. We very much looked forward to this opportunity. However, the health and safety of our traveling party must be and is our first priority,” the Pittsburgh Pirates said in a statement.
     The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Zika’s link to microcephaly, a congenital disorder where babies are born with unusually small heads and potential brain damage. Scientists also said earlier this year that the virus can be transmitted sexually.
     Each team had been briefed by scientists from the CDC ahead of the series, scheduled to be played Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
     A joint statement from the league commissioner’s office and the players’ union said that many players are in family situations that would make a trip to Puerto Rico risky right now.
     “Because too many regulars on both clubs fell into that category, Commissioner Manfred had no choice but to relocate the games,” the statement said.
     While the series was originally scheduled to be played in Miami, the league said this past November that the games would instead be played in Puerto Rico.
     “MLB and the players association did everything possible to adequately address the concerns raised by players and still play the games in Puerto Rico. But despite extensive efforts, they were unable to develop a workable solution,” the statement said.
     Major League Baseball has played several regular-season games in Puerto Rico in the past, and the league plans to play more there in the future.
     Puerto Rico has 85 confirmed Zika cases and one death associated with the virus.
     Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla has questioned why athletes are concerned about playing in Puerto Rico but will play in Brazil, where Zika has been a widespread issue with an estimated 1.5 million cases according to Brazilian officials.
     “It’s ironic that athletes are willing to go to Brazil to the Olympics and don’t want to come to Puerto Rico,” Padilla told local newspaper El Nuevo Dia.
     Padilla noted that Miami also has Zika cases.
     Puerto Rico has faced several issues recently, including its inability to pay $72 billion in public debt.
     The U.S. territory missed a roughly $370 million bond payment Monday, and some experts believe that the situation will grow worse without relief from Congress. Padilla said that delaying the debt payment was necessary to continue funding essential public services, including medical care and schools.

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