PHOENIX — Major League Baseball is getting back to normal. Players can now travel with their families. They can eat and drink in restaurants and bars. They can play cards and move around on planes and buses. They can use whirlpools and saunas in the clubhouse. And they no longer are required to wear a mask on the bench or in the bullpen.
However, teams are first required to have at least 85% of their tier 1 players and staff fully vaccinated, with a two-week delay after the final vaccination, according to a memo obtained by USA TODAY Sports that was sent to teams Monday.
Several teams, including the Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals, are scheduled to undergo COVID-19 vaccinations Monday night.
Among the new and relaxed protocols:
► Players and staff members who are vaccinated no longer are required to wear masks in gatherings in hotel rooms and other indoor spaces with other fully vaccinated individuals but still must wear masks in the clubhouse and training room. Masks are not mandated in the dugout, bullpen or weight room.
► Family and household members who are vaccinated, including non-vaccinated children, are now permitted to stay with them in their hotel rooms on the road. Players also no longer are required to notified their club compliance officer when leaving the hotel
► Vaccinated individuals now have the option to decrease testing to twice a week using saliva tests.
► Fully vaccinated individuals who have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 no longer need to quarantine unless they have symptoms.
► Fully vaccinated individuals can carpool or use ride-sharing services to and from club facilities.
► Card playing is back on planes and buses as long as no unvaccinated individuals are within two rows of the fully vaccinated people.
► Vaccinated individuals can meet outdoors with anyone instead of just household or family members.
► Vaccinated players and staff members also are permitted to appear at in-person sponsorship or marketing events, provided that the event’s health and safety protocols are approved by the club.
► They also may now attend indoor religious services, although outdoor serves still are recommended.
► Family members and guests of players and staff are no longer required to sit in pods at games, and can mingle with other spectators.
“I’m really excited about the opportunity that’s going to be available to the group,’’ Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “I know it allows us to open our world quite a bit. I respect everyone’s individual right to take it or not take it, but I’m excited about the possibilities of moving forward if we can meet a certain threshold.’’