The past three days have been an unexpected whirlwind for the Yankees, who keep winning despite rising COVID-19 cases that have now reached eight, including the team’s first player in Gleyber Torres.
For Brian Cashman, the Yankees’ recent outbreak, despite the majority of the traveling party being fully vaccinated earlier this season, is a reminder that a vaccination doesn’t mean an immunity from COVID-19, but shows how much more manageable an outbreak can be if the bulk of the group is vaccinated.
“When you read the fine print, it tells you you can still get COVID, and the vaccine is to protect you from the symptoms, either to eliminate them altogether…it’s not full protection,” Cashman told reporters on Thursday. “You know the percentages. The one thing I take from this is that the vaccine is working. We’ve got eight positives and seven of the eight are presented without symptoms. So without the testing, you wouldn’t even have known. The one case that did present symptoms, in Phil Nevin’s case, is now symptom-free…for that, we’re thankful.”
Torres is also asymptomatic and quarantining in Tampa, but the rest of the Yankees will continue on, getting set for their series finale against the Rays while being without their first and third base coaches, as well as their pitching coach in Matt Blake. It’s meant more work for the staff that is still able to show up for work, which Cashman knows has been a challenge.
“The people on the ground and especially our training staff I’m sure are taxed,” Cashman said. “They are going, as they have been, above and beyond, and our front office and field staff have hadf to adjust, assume different roles when asked upon and use that next person up mentality, so if something happens, someone gets a confirmed positive and gets removed from the operation…then obviously you have to backfill and replace.”
The Yankees’ current location this week have made things logistically easier in terms of quarantining (Torres is able to quarantine in his own home in Tampa), but as the road trip continues, the Yankees may have to pull from elsewhere to fill out their staff, or their roster if others in addition to Torres wind up testing positive.
“We happen to be in Tampa right now and we’ll eventually be in Baltimore and Texas, so we’re utilizing our facility in Tampa, and potentially in the future pulling from Somerset or Scranton is certainly a possibility, or New York, all remains to be seen,” Cashman said. “We’re adjusting and rolling. It’s added some extra work but we’re happy to be in the position we are, which is for the most part almost everyone fully vaccinated, and therefore better protected despite what’s occurred here.”
Cashman pointed to Saturday’s game against the Nationals at Yankee Stadium as a possible catalyst for the current spread, with the coaching staff being in close quarters indoors during a rain delay, and while the spread was seen as a surprise by many given the Yankees’ vaccination numbers, Cashman knows the team avoided much worse after talking to a sports team in Europe on Thursday, the identity of which he didn’t disclose.
“It ravaged them, and made some severely ill and hospitalized,” Cashman said. “I’m thankful most of our personnel are protected because they chose to get vaccinated.”
Given the team’s vaccination count, the spread was much more manageable, and allowed the team to continue playing without interruption, and Cashman said the series in Tampa was never at risk of being postponed, even as the positive test count grew.
“This series was never in jeopardy,” Cashman said. “Based on the information we’ve been giving, and we’ve been following every directive we’ve been given…we’re trying to be as transparent as we possibly can, not just to the public but to our hosts in Tampa right now with the Rays, and they would do the same for us.”
Major League Baseball has been in touch with the CDC to specifically discuss the situation with the Yankees, which is certainly an uncommon one among a large group where every positive test came from an individual who had been fully vaccinated, but Cashman has preached transparency as his group continues to work through an unexpected hurdle in its season, though he hopes better days are ahead as Thursday brought no new positive test results.
“We are trying to be as open as transparent as we legally can, because I know this is an understandably newsworthy event,” Cashman said. “I know we are maybe a case study to some degree, in some case curiosity for people who don’t know that despite being vaccinated, you are really still potentially exposed, and we can educate people that your exposure is limited significantly not to getting the virus, but to how the virus affects you.”
Follow Ryan Chichester on Twitter: @ryanchichester1