COVID-19 vaccines are becoming more readily available around the country, and large numbers of people are getting their doses. Players and coaches on the St. Louis Cardinals are among this group and are close to some major changes. The majority of the MLB team has received the vaccine and will reap the benefits.
According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said that the team reached the 85% threshold for having the vaccine as a team. This number means that the team will now be eligible for loosened coronavirus guidelines. A league memo before the season said that reaching this threshold means that "communal amenities in the locker room will be restored, such as pool tables and saunas." Additionally, players and coaches won't have to wear masks while they are in the dugout or bullpen.
ESPN obtained a copy of the league memo, which said getting the vaccine was "strongly encouraged" — although it was not required. Those that received the vaccine can "gather without masks in hotel rooms, carpool together, play cards on airplanes, eat at restaurants, meet outdoors while on the road with anyone of their choosing, and stay at personal residences when traveling, among other things."
The vaccinated players and coaches will no longer have to wear masks while exercising, nor will they have to inform a team compliance officer when they leave the team hotel. These individuals will have the opportunity to decrease their testing to twice a week. They will avoid mandatory quarantine if they contact someone who tested positive for coronavirus, provided they remain asymptomatic.
With the Cardinals reaching the 85% threshold, there are questions about whether other teams will follow suit. ESPN's Jeff Passan reports that more teams are expecting to hit that number. He reported that some pitchers have their vaccinations scheduled for the day after their first starts.
"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," Shildt said before reaching the threshold, per Reuters. "[...]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," Shildt continued. "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."