The Chicago Cubs were the only club to make it through the 2020 season, from intake through the postseason, without a positive COVID case. It was, in some ways, a measure of luck, but it definitely also spoke to the seriousness with which they treated the pandemic and MLB’s health and safety protocols.
I have no doubt the Cubs are treating it just as seriously this year (I am hoping they reaching 85+% vaccination level soon), though they did have a positive case on the coaching staff last week, with first base coach Craig Driver recovering in Chicago. Whether related to Driver’s case or not, the Cubs have a COVID roster move coming:
At least one Chicago Cubs player is being placed on the COVID list, according to sources familiar with the situation. It’s believed to be out of abundance of caution.
— Robert Murray (@ByRobertMurray) April 12, 2021
We’ll update with the particulars when they become available, but obviously MLB wants to encourage the use of the COVID IL by teams that want to make sure they aren’t having anyone around the clubhouse who has a chance of carrying the virus. That particularly “injury” designation comes with no minimum or maximum stay, so it’s something teams should definitely use if there’s any chance whatsoever of a positive case. Someone(s) from the team’s taxi squad will presumably be added to the roster tonight.
Hopefully that’s all this will be, and there won’t be spread or postponements or any of that ugliness.
UPDATE: It’s actually much worse than just a matter of caution, as there’s another coach who has tested positive, and at least three pitchers who have to sit out:
Cubs bullpen coach Chris Young has tested positive for COVID-19, via the daily testing process.
Relievers Jason Adam, Brandon Workman and Dan Winkler on the injured list. Corresponding moves to come.
— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) April 12, 2021
First and foremost, you hope that Young is OK, and that none of the three relievers were infected.
From a roster standpoint, this is kind of a mess if the Cubs actually wanted to replace all three. The five players on the taxi squad (utility man Ildemaro Vargas, outfielder Rafael Ortega, catcher PJ Higgins, lefty reliever Brad Wieck, and righty reliever Pedro Strop) include just two pitchers, and only Wieck is already on the 40-man roster. So if the Cubs wanted, for example, to add Strop right quick for tonight, they’d still have to open up a 40-man roster spot for him. I believe that would require an official COVID list designation.
UPDATE 2: An odd caveat/update here, as the three specified relievers were placed on the 10-day Injured List, not the COVID-specific injury list (Dorsey), though I’m not quite sure that’s a distinction with a difference in the immediate context. If they are, in fact, being separated out from the roster for COVID exposure possibility or symptoms, it’s going to become a COVID list stay.
I think we’ll be getting more information soon, because it would seem highly unlikely that three Cubs relievers were injured-injured on the same day the bullpen coach tests positive for COVID.
UPDATE 3: So it’s not the 10-day IL, just the IL … which means it’s the COVID IL:
Cubs later clarified: "not the 10day" IL.
Also, the three are quarantined in Chicago away from rest of team. https://t.co/2qyimjeznR
— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) April 12, 2021
So we are left to presume that Young’s close contacts during the possible transmission window were determined to be these three relievers. They will be quarantined until multiple negatives come back that put them outside their own transmission window, and you have to hope that there was no meaningful risk that they were infected and transmitted to others in the meantime. The virus remains incredibly contagious, and I don’t know that anyone should assume anything at this moment about where this could go from here.
In the meantime, the situation does offer up a reminder that while it is up to individual persons to get vaccinated (protecting both themselves and becoming a broken link in the possible chain of infection), the decision to get vaccinated is not solely a personal one. It can impact other people, and at a population level, we know that it does.
UPDATE 4: This seems concerning as far as possible spread goes:
Tonight's Cubs game in Milwaukee will be played, Ross says. Traveling party tested negative today.
Chris Young was on the team flight from Pittsburgh last night. There had been negative tests beforehand.
— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) April 12, 2021
So does this mean the three relievers were the ones sitting around Young on the flight? And the only possible close contacts in that regard? It’s been a while since I was in this zone, but I guess that means the risk of transmission among masked individuals on a flight is really low unless you’re right next to each other? To be honest, I really only have questions at this point. Questions and a hope that this isn’t the start of a drip-drip of positive tests and more contact tracing. Hope all the protocols were followed to a tee, which, even if vaccinations haven’t kicked in yet, would really help reduce the chances of team-wide spread.