Jed Hoyer will encourage Chicago Cubs players to get vaccinated to reach MLB’s threshold for relaxed COVID-19 restrictions — but will not make it mandatory

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Paul Sullivan, Chicago Tribune
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The magic number for the Chicago Cubs and every other team this spring is 85.

That’s the percentage of Tier 1 individuals — the players as well as the staff who are in contact with them — who have to be fully vaccinated for MLB to relax its COVID-19 restrictions.

Fully vaccinated players and staff on all teams that reach the 85% mark will be able to eat and drink on team flights, gather in indoor spaces without masks, and carpool or use an Uber or Lyft. They also would not have to quarantine after coming in close contact with someone with COVID-19, unless they exhibit symptoms.

Family members who are fully vaccinated and children who are not vaccinated also would be able to stay in hotels with fully vaccinated players and staff during the team’s road trips.

Cubs President Jed Hoyer said the process of player vaccinations has begun, and some Cubs were getting their shots Wednesday in the empty space next to Wrigley Field that used to house Maddon’s Post, former manager Joe Maddon’s now-shuttered restaurant.

“I certainly will be encouraging guys to do it,” Hoyer said. “Once guys are fully vaccinated, that takes away a lot of the close contact situations we have now, and obviously in my opinion it’s the right thing to do. I understand that we can’t mandate guys do it. I understand that it’s a personal choice. But it’s something I will recommend guys doing. Hopefully, we can continue to add to those numbers and get us up to the place where we can eliminate those concerns.”

Kaycee Sogard, wife of Cubs infielder Eric Sogard, criticized MLB’s policy on her Instagram page, writing: “A few of the things MLB will not allow my husband to do unless he is fully vaccinated” followed by a list she compiled, and calling the policy “absolutely disgusting.”

Hoyer said he hasn’t done a head count to know whether the Cubs would reach the 85% mark.

“I haven’t had a chance to kind of go through and figure out exactly what that number will look like,” he said. “But obviously that 85 % threshold is really important and something we want to shoot for. We will be encouraging people to get the vaccine, but at the same time we have to honor people’s personal choice along with that.”

Employers can legally require employees to get vaccinated if it’s a legitimate job requirement, while making reasonable accommodations for employees who decline the vaccine because of a disability or religious reasons.

An MLB memo to teams said individuals are considered “fully vaccinated” two weeks after receiving their second dose of the two-dose vaccine, which are made by Pfizer or Moderna, or two weeks after their first dose of a single-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson.

If a person refuses to receive the vaccine, the team can not take punitive measures such as sitting a player, even if it’s to the detriment of the team.

“No, I think if players have a personal reason they don’t want to get it, that’s their personal choice,” Hoyer said. “We’re not in a position to mandate that they get it.”

Meanwhile, the Washington Nationals reportedly had a positive test in Florida in testing conducted Monday and will be missing five players and a staff member for opening day on Thursday.

Cubs players had no positive tests during the 2020 season. Teams will carry five players on a taxi squad in 2021.

“Obviously it’s a situation hopefully we can get past this and get to a place where you don’t have to worry about close contacts and worry about guys getting COVID,” Hoyer said. “But right now it’s a reality and it kind of goes back to the issue of depth — having as much depth as possible is really important. ... We’re going to have, hopefully it’s not a situation like that, but we’re going to have injuries. Things are going to come up probably more often that they would in a normal season.”

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