Major League Baseball told teams on Monday that fully vaccinated players, coaches and other Tier 1 staff can enjoy loosened COVID-19 protocols, with more restrictions lifted once a team reaches 85 percent vaccination.
In an internal memo received by several outlets, MLB "strongly encouraged" the players and staff to receive one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines when eligible but stops short of making it a requirement.
According to the memo, fully vaccinated Tier 1 personnel -- that's anyone who had the final dose of the vaccine more than two weeks prior -- will be able to gather together in indoor spaces such as hotel rooms without masks or distancing and can choose to opt out of some COVID-19 testing. They also will be allowed to eat in restaurants, bring vaccinated family members on road trips, carpool and stay in personal residences while traveling, ESPN reported.
Vaccinated individuals won't need to quarantine if they are identified as a close contact of someone with COVID-19 as long as they don't have symptoms.
Once a team reaches the 85 percent threshold of full vaccinations among Tier 1 personnel, additional restrictions will be lifted. Communal amenities in the locker room will be restored, such as pool tables and saunas, and players and coaches won't have to wear masks in the dugout or bullpen or wear tracking devices.
As they prepare to open the season on Thursday, teams are making plans for vaccinations for those who want them.
The St. Louis Cardinals, who will play the Reds in Cincinnati on Opening Day, are hoping they will have doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine available to those who want them. Anyone age 16 or up is eligible to be vaccinated in Ohio.
"I would say that I'm hopeful people will do it, because obviously, the more vaccines that go into arms, ultimately, I think, the more freedom or normalcy we'll be able to experience," said John Mozeliak, the Cardinals president of baseball operations, per MLB.com
Vaccines won't be available to all adults in Missouri until April 9.
"I'm excited for our country, the fact there's an opportunity to get a vaccine that allows us to maybe get back to more normal things that allow us to enjoy life a little bit more, enjoy each other a little bit more," Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. .".. But I am grateful, man. We're going to have fans at Busch Stadium; we're going to have fans at different ballparks. It's what we play for, us to share our game with people that love the game with us.
"And so I'm excited for the season to get started. I'm glad we're playing a complete season. I'm glad it looks like there's a possibility for things to open up for our country and for our sport, and for our team to have more freedoms and enjoyment with our game. I'm ready for our team to play. I'm excited."
--Field Level Media