On Monday, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association informed teams that health and safety protocols will be relaxed for individuals who receive COVID-19 vaccinations, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today. The protocols will be relaxed once 85 percent of the team's Tier 1 individuals are fully vaccinated, including a two-week delay after the final shot.
Tier 1 individuals include players and staff in direct contact with players (coaches, trainers, etc.). Here are some of the protocols that will be relaxed, per Nightengale:
- Vaccinated personnel will no longer have to wear masks when with other vaccinated personnel in hotel rooms or other indoor spaces. Masks must still be worn in the clubhouse and training room.
- Vaccinated family members and non-vaccinated children can now stay with players in their hotel room on the road.
- Vaccinated personnel will have the option to reduce testing frequency to twice a week rather than every other day.
- Vaccinated personnel in close contact with an individual who tests positive no long have to quarantine if they don't show symptoms.
- Vaccinated individuals can carpool and use ridesharing services, attend sponsorship events, and indoor religious services.
As part of this year's health and safety agreement, MLB and the MLBPA did not mandate vaccinations for players, though they "strongly encourage" all personnel to get vaccinated when eligible. The league hopes relaxing protocols for vaccinated individuals will lead to more players and staff members getting vaccinated.
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The Astros will stop in Houston to receive vaccinations after leaving spring training Monday, reports MLB.com's Brian McTaggart. The club will then work out at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday before traveling to the Bay Area for their season opening series against the Athletics. The Cardinals will also receive vaccinations prior to Opening Day, according to MLB.com's Zachary Silver.
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Earlier this month the NBA and NBPA agreed to relaxed their health and safety protocols for vaccinated individuals. The health and safety agreement is collectively bargained, so MLB and the MLBPA must agree to any changes. Neither side can implement changes unilaterally.