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Professional Major League Baseball organization the New York Yankees have been rocked this week with COVID-19 after 8 members of the team and staff have tested positive for the virus.
The team announced on Thursday, May 13th that shortstop Gleyber Torres has tested positive for COVID-19. Other positive tests include members of the Yankees coaching and support staff.
It was announced on Wednesday the 12th by Manager Aaron Boone that pitching coach Matt Blake, third base coach Phil Nevin and first base coach Reggie Willits tested positive in addition to four unidentified members of the Yankees’ support staff.
Vaccinated Players, Positive Tests
Yankees Manager Aaron Boone told Marly Rivera of ESPN that Gleyber Torres was “feeling good,” adding that he was asymptomatic and felt fine. The team also announced that six of the other seven cases among staff were also asymptomatic.
For Gleyber Torres, this is his second COVID-19 diagnosis after testing positive in December. After that test, Torres was fully vaccinated in the period since his second positive.
According to the New York Yankees, all positive tests this week came from members of the organization who had been vaccinated with the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
These cases are classified by the CDC as “Breakthrough” cases. “Breakthrough” cases, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are when a small percentage of people who are fully vaccinated still get COVID-19 after being exposed to the virus that causes it.
The CDC has stated that “breakthrough” cases among people who have been vaccinated are expected and a normal part of the larger vaccine process. Per the CDC:
“Vaccine breakthrough cases are expected. COVID-19 vaccines are effective and are a critical tool to bring the pandemic under control. However no vaccines are 100% effective at preventing illness. There will be a small percentage of people who are fully vaccinated who still get sick, are hospitalized, or die from COVID-19.”
85% Fully Vaccinated Staff Pushes Forward
The Yankees’ are one of multiple MLB teams that exceed 85% full vaccination rates of their Tier 1 personnel which includes players, coaches and support staff. This has allowed the team to continue playing without interruption to date.
After the announcement of positive tests, several players and coaches returned to wearing masks in the dugout during Tuesday’s game.
Each member of the team’s traveling party has received multiple COVID-19 tests this week that include both PCR nasal swabs and saliva testing.
Virology Experts Weigh In on Yankees COVID-19 Positive Tests
Immunology and virology experts who spoke to Yahoo Sports on Thursday shared their feedback and insight into the breakthrough cases and recent news developments.
Dr. John P. Moore is a professor of microbiology and immunology at Weill Cornell Medical College and his initial question surrounded whether or no the breakthrough cases were the result of the same exposure to an unvaccinated infectious source or was it transmitted among one member of the Yankees to others.
“It’s not too unexpected that vaccine recipients will get asymptomatic or low-grade infection, particularly with J&J, because J&J is known to be 70 percent, approximately, effective at preventing mild disease,” Dr. Moore stated. The official CDC J&J Vaccine effectiveness listed in clinical trials is 66.3% effectiveness at preventing positive COVID-19 tests.
Moore did say however, “What would be unexpected is an infected J&J vaccine recipient then passing the infection on to someone else. That would be surprising.”
Recent statistics have shown that cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations due to the virus have been decreasing, virology experts remind us that herd immunity means everyone.
“The problem is that we treat this as if our family or work, or our social group is the herd,” explained Dr. Benjamin Neuman, a professor of biology and GHRC Chief Virologist at Texas A&M University. “But the herd is everybody, and herd immunity means everybody’s gotta get vaccinated. A lot of little exposures can lead to a breakthrough.”