Not a good start for the Nationals

The Washington Nationals’ press conference today was an excitement-piercing reminder that we are still about to begin a season played out under the lingering threat posed by COVID-19.

The team revealed that a player has tested positive and that five other people (four players, one staff member) have been deemed to have been in close contact with them based on the agreed Health and Safety Protocol.

As per that protocol, in theory the player who tested positive will have to quarantine for a minimum of 10 days, with the other five contacts facing a minimum seven-day quarantine too. It’s a breaking story so we’ll have to wait and see what further details emerge and exactly how it is going to pan out.

Their General Manager Mike Rizzo has stated that their opening game against the New York Mets on Thursday will go ahead regardless, calling up additional players from their alternate site if needed. Britt Ghiroli of The Athletic confirmed that the message from Rizzo was that they will “have to make some roster moves” as a result.

Barely 20 minutes after Nats beat-writers were reporting that news, Cardinals beat-writers were reporting from their team’s Zoom press conference that manager Mike Schildt had stated they had gone past the 85 per cent threshold of team members having received an initial vaccine shot. This will ultimately entitle the players and staff to benefit from slightly-loosened restrictions, such as the ability to go to restaurants when on road trips etc.

This is a measure clearly designed to encourage any players on the fence to get a vaccine or risk the wrath of their teammates for preventing them from reaching the 85 per cent threshold. Fair enough, if you ask me.

Possibly the most important relaxation of the rules in the context of today’s news is that a close contact of someone who tests positive would not have to quarantine, so long as they were one of the 85 per cent that had received the vaccine and were not displaying any other symptoms (and obviously, would have to be passing the COVID tests administered).

That’s not a criticism of the Nationals right now as the changes only kick in when at least 85 per cent on a team are fully vaccinated. ESPN.com explain that this means:

“two weeks after the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna and two weeks after the first dose of Johnson & Johnson, a single-dose vaccine”.

ESPN.com

Staff, players and their family members are starting to get the opportunity to be vaccinated and the news today can be seen as wake-up call that should encourage players and staff to take up the option as soon as it is offered.

As for the A’s, Shayna Rubin has reported that David Forst confirmed today the team is “working to make access available to players/staff”.

It would appear from Shayna’s tweet that the ongoing work is around organising the vaccination process, rather than trying to convince enough people to take it, and hopefully that is the case.

Of course, vaccinations will not completely remove the risk of transmission or illness caused by COVID-19; however today’s breaking news from the Nationals’ camp shows that everyone in MLB still needs to be doing everything they can to ensure that the season starting tomorrow will be able to proceed as normally as possible in these abnormal times.

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