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Vaccination rate lags: Red Sox must continue with virus protocols

Providence Journal logo Providence Journal 5/29/2021 Bill Koch, The Providence Journal
a man sitting in front of a crowd: Boston Red Sox's Rafael Devers high-fives teammates as he takes a celebratory laundry-cart ride through the dugout after his two-run home run in the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves at Fenway Park, Wednesday, May 26, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) ORG XMIT: MACK111 © Charles Krupa/AP Boston Red Sox's Rafael Devers high-fives teammates as he takes a celebratory laundry-cart ride through the dugout after his two-run home run in the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves at Fenway Park, Wednesday, May 26, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) ORG XMIT: MACK111

BOSTON — Fenway Park will open to full capacity on Saturday but certain Red Sox personnel still will be wearing masks. 

Boston has yet to reach the 85% COVID-19 vaccination threshold required to ease virus restrictions. More than half of the sport’s Tier 1 groups — 16 of 30 — had met or exceeded the standard as of Friday. Three more will do so in the next two weeks after their respective immunity periods following a second shot have passed. 

After this weekend's series against the Miami Marlins, the Red Sox will embark on a seven-game road trip to Houston and New York still observing social-distancing measures on charter flights and charter buses. Players and staff members still will be prohibited from frequenting local bars and restaurants before and after games. Fans looking on from the stands this weekend at Minute Maid Park and at Yankee Stadium all figure to be allowed to do so. 

“So far, we’ve been very disciplined,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “But as the world keeps becoming normal, hopefully, we don’t see that as a window where we can take advantage. That’s my biggest worry.” 

Boston managed to avoid any COVID-19 cases throughout a shortened 60-game season in 2020. Matt Barnes and several close contacts were banished from spring training after what turned out to be a non-infectious positive test in March. J.D. Martinez missed one game at Baltimore in April after reporting potential virus symptoms — each of his subsequent test results was negative. 

“I do believe we’re doing things the right way,” Cora said. “Everybody is preparing the right way. It impacts when we leave the stadium. That’s the one. That worries me a little bit. We as a group cannot take advantage of certain rules because we’re not at 85%.” 

Mask use in dugouts and bullpens is no longer required once clubs reach the magic number. Players and staff members would be allowed to watch video in a communal clubhouse space rather than in smaller groups or individually. Use of team treatment rooms, spas and saunas would be subject to fewer restrictions. 

PCR and saliva testing would be reduced, and both players and staff members would be allowed to use ride-share services such as Uber and Lyft during road trips. Vaccinated family members and children who are not vaccinated would be able to stay with players and staff members at team hotels. Leaving team hotels without advanced notification and staying at personal homes while on road trips also would be allowed. 

“As of now, we’ve been very good — we've been very disciplined — with the testing,” Cora said. “But at the same time, Monday is a holiday. You can feel it — summer is here. The world is going forward.” 

Part of the inability to reach the threshold rests with Red Sox minor leaguers and staff members. Triple-A Worcester is included among Boston’s Tier 1 group, which includes roughly 100 people in all. Cora said there has been little progress both with the Red Sox and WooSox over the last week in terms of receiving vaccines. 

“I think people have this wrong idea that it’s only the big-league team,” Cora said. “In Tier 1, it’s the big leagues and Triple A. It’s a combination of both.  

“Right now, we didn’t make any progress here or down there in Worcester.” 

Cora was outside baseball’s bubble last season while serving his suspension for the 2017 electronic sign-stealing with the Astros. His native Puerto Rico enforced mandatory lockdowns and curfews in an attempt to reduce the number of cases on the island. Cora said he wore gloves and a hooded sweatshirt while venturing to the grocery store for the first time and immediately showered upon his return home. 

“As far as what we bring for the city and what’s going to happen tomorrow, it’s great,” Cora said. “It feels like we’re moving forward as a society. There’s a lot of information out there we didn’t have on March 17 of last year.  

“We were panicking, right? You were panicking. Everybody was panicking. What were we going to do? Now it feels like it’s as normal as possible — obviously, with some rules or guidelines or stuff we have to do.” 

bkoch@providencejournal.com  

On Twitter: @BillKoch25 

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Vaccination rate lags: Red Sox must continue with virus protocols

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