Policy

Zika Scares Major League Baseball Out of Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico governor calls the decision to move two games 'offensive'

Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla of Puerto Rico accused baseball officials of "ignorance" for moving the games out of the island territory. (Photo by GV Cruz/Getty Images)

Major League Baseball has decided to cancel two games slated to be held this month in Puerto Rico and move them instead to Miami due to fears over the Zika virus .  

Just ahead of the announcement on Friday, the governor of Puerto Rico called the reported fears from baseball players “offensive.”  

“That’s just ignorance,” said Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla when asked about those fears on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers,” scheduled to air Sunday. “The same chances you have to get Zika in Puerto Rico, you will have it in Miami.”  

Garcia Padilla is a member of the Popular Democratic Party, which is aligned with Democrats on the mainland.  

Just last week, Puerto Rico announced its first death related to the Zika virus – a man in his 70s who died in February. Nearly 700 cases of the mosquito-borne virus have been confirmed in the U.S. territory between Nov. 1 and April 15.  

[Related: Podcast: Trump Looms Large as Congress Returns to Debate Zika Funds and More] In a statement, MLB said that the players’ union had asked Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. to relocate the two-game series in San Juan between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins scheduled for May 30-31 after player “concerns about contracting and potentially transmitting the Zika virus to their partners.”  

Players and staff of both teams were briefed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and were warned of the risks. After talking to everyone involved, including Puerto Rican officials, Manfred decided that the players who “objected to the trip because of their specific family situations should not be forced to travel to Puerto Rico,” the statement read.  

But because “too many regulars on both clubs fell into that category” Manfred had “no choice but to relocate the games,” the statement continued.  

The CDC has said that the virus can be transmitted via mosquito bites, from mother to child during pregnancy, and through sexual contact. The agency concluded last month that Zika causes microcephaly, a birth defect that results in an abnormally small head.  

[Related: Puerto Rico Pleads With Senate to Let It Go Bankrupt] Still, Garcia Padilla brushed aside those concerns, responding with sarcasm: “If you are a woman and you are looking to have a baby or if you are already pregnant, do not go to central Florida. You shouldn’t go to Disney World right now. Or to Miami. Or Puerto Rico. Or to the Caribbean. Or to Brazil.”  

He asked whether the U.S. Olympic team will not travel to Rio de Janeiro later this year. “Because that’s the Mecca of Zika,” he said. “It’s just ignorance. And it’s offensive to Puerto Ricans.”  

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