So far in their lukewarm start to the season, the New York Yankees have 19 wins, 16 losses, and eight confirmed coronavirus cases among vaccinated members of their coaching and support staff.
Before Wednesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays, manager Aaron Boone announced that pitching coach Matt Blake had tested positive, joining previous cases including third-base coach Phil Nevin, first-base coach Reggie Willits, and four more unnamed staffers. Boone reiterated that all seven who have tested positive have been vaccinated. Gleyber Torres, the team’s starting shortstop, is also being held out of the lineup “out of an abundance of caution” as the Yankees await testing results; Boone did not mention why Torres, who contracted the virus in December and was also vaccinated, was the only player being held back due to COVID testing. On Thursday, the club announced Torres had tested positive and has been placed on the “COVID-19 injured list.”
In the press conference, Boone described the pandemic mystery that the ball club is currently facing, saying that they’re “trying to kind of get our heads wrapped around it all.” If a team’s traveling party numbers in the several dozen, seven positive cases would be orders of magnitude higher than the breakthrough rate in the non-pinstripe population: According to CDC data from April 15, 5,800 Americans had contracted the coronavirus despite being fully vaccinated, out of a population of 77 million people who had received their full dosage.
Major League Baseball has provided incentives for players to get vaccinated, including the relaxing of pandemic restrictions if teams get at least 85 percent of their group of staff and players who travel to away games to get their shots. At least ten teams, including the Yankees, have reached that mark as of Wednesday, allowing players to take off their masks in the dugout and bullpen; dine indoors; and stop participating in the league’s contact-tracing program.
Over the two pandemic seasons, some players have been reluctant to adhere to coronavirus protocols. During the final game of the World Series, Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner violated league rules when he celebrated on the field after he was pulled in the seventh inning when he was notified of a positive coronavirus test. On the day after the season began, New York Mets third baseman J.D. Davis said that he hadn’t “really thought about” whether or not he’d get a vaccine. Philadelphia Phillies reliever Hector Neris said days later that he did not want to “get a shot, not right now.”
The MLB, meanwhile, continues to aid in the national vaccination effort by administering vaccines to fans during games at several ballparks, including Citi Field and Yankee Stadium.