Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer is starting to think the franchise won’t hit the 85 percent COVID-19 vaccination rate that Major League Baseball is requiring for teams to remove some of their regulations.
“I think we’re at a place right now, candidly, where I’m not going to give up hope that we can get there, but my level of optimism is waning, candidly,” Hoyer said, according to The Associated Press. “And it is disappointing because there are conveniences that come with getting to 85 percent as a group, just mask wearing and dining and things like that that we would all like to have, but I also feel there’s a real competitive advantage that we’re going to miss."
MLB’s 85 percent threshold includes all members of an organization’s staff. When a team hits that point, tracking methods are relaxed, as electronic tracing devices are eliminated and close-contact quarantines are removed for fully vaccinated people. Fully vaccinated players that are part of teams that reach the threshold are allowed to enter bullpens and dugouts without masks, eat and drink on team flights, and gather indoors without masks or social distancing.
“The contact tracing thing is a big deal,” Hoyer said. “I feel like when you have a positive case, but the people around you have been vaccinated, that takes away that contact tracing element to guys being out. And by not hitting the 85 percent, we’re missing that.”
The AP reported that, as of last Friday, 12 of 30 MLB teams had reached the 85 percent threshold by last week. Four more teams were within two weeks of joining the group.
"It's a part of the job I never quite imagined, being involved in that kind of education, that kind of convincing," Hoyer said, according to ESPN.
Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta said he doesn't see the 85 percent threshold as a competitive advantage or disadvantage.
"We have a lot of guys vaccinated," Arrieta said. "We have not had any cases in the past month, so we're doing OK as a group. And we're being careful about where we go and who we're around."