HOUSTON -- The Astros will join the growing group of clubs that will be able to relax the coronavirus protocols by hitting the 85-percent vaccination threshold on Monday, general manager James Click said Sunday on the team’s pregame radio show on 790 AM in Houston.
That means Astros players won’t have to wear masks in the bullpen or dugouts or wear tracking devices for contact tracing. The staff, players and coaches can also dine at restaurants indoors and will not get tested as often, among other benefits. Click said Monday will mark two weeks since many of the players and staff received their second coronavirus vaccines.
“The trick is going to be to remind guys that doesn’t mean there are no restrictions,” he said. “There are some restrictions -- still wearing masks in clubhouse indoors. We still have to be careful, like all of us in society. ... Obviously, we’re really excited that we got there. I know the guys are thrilled to get there. [I] can’t say enough about our doctors, Houston Methodist and everybody that helped us out with it -- and the players themselves for stepping up and getting the shots.”
Click said education was the key to reaching 85 percent. He credited Dr. Seema Shah, the team’s infectious disease specialist, for doing an hourlong question-and-answer session in English and Spanish with a huge chunk of the players and staff to educate them on the pros and cons of the vaccine and dispel some of the misinformation that might be out there.
“Some other guys educated themselves and then talked to the rest of the guys in the clubhouse -- and there’s really no substitute [for the information] coming from a friend of yours, somebody you trust, a teammate,” Click said. “Obviously, we provide the guys with as much information as we possibly can. But the more that they hear it and the more they hear it from their friends and teammates, I think that can’t hurt, certainly.”
Clubs were informed just before Opening Day that MLB and the MLBPA have agreed to relax certain health-and-safety protocols contained in the 2021 Operations Manual for fully vaccinated Tier 1 Individuals and for clubs where 85 percent of their Tier 1 Individuals are fully vaccinated. This applies to all players and staff who are considered Tier 1, including those at the alternate site. As part of that memo, players and staff were again strongly encouraged to receive one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines when eligible.