While the Cubs took batting practice Wednesday afternoon, the Nationals were navigating the protocols for a positive COVID-19 test on the visitors’ side of Wrigley Field.
They went through contact tracing and isolated the affected players. Then came the roster moves. When Washington manager Davey Martinez spoke to the media around 5 p.m., the team had yet to announce their starting lineup.
As Dr. Robert Citronberg said earlier this week on the Cubs Talk Podcast: “it’s just a reminder that while things are much better, the pandemic’s not over yet.”
Citronberg, the executive medical director of infectious disease and prevention for Advocate Aurora Health and a medical advisor to the Cubs, was talking generally about rare breakthrough cases. But his point felt poignant on Wednesday.
Before the Cubs’ 4-3 loss, the Nationals announced that one of their players had tested positive for COVID-19. He was vaccinated and is asymptomatic, according to Martinez.
Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer revealed after the game that right-hander Erick Fedde was the player who tested positive. One other player was a close contact and has been isolated away from the team.
The Nationals placed Fedde and fellow pitcher Tanner Rainey on the injured list Wednesday. Fedde has not pitched in the series. Rainey has made two relief appearances against the Cubs.
“We’ve got to make sure that our players weren’t in contact with their players,” Martinez said of the Cubs before the game, “but everything seems to be good in that aspect.”
The Nationals’ positive test is by no means unique in MLB this season, though it’s the closest to the Cubs since they had two coaches test positive last month.
Nine fully vaccinated members of the Yankees’ traveling party have tested positive in the past week. At least seven were asymptomatic, and none have become seriously ill.
“What the vaccine does, is it prevents you from getting sick from (the virus),” Citronberg said. “And the early data is that if you’ve been vaccinated and you have the virus – let’s say, for example, some of those players on the Yankees – it’s pretty unlikely to be able to transmit it to other people.
“So, it’s not foolproof, it’s not 100 percent, but your chances of getting sick or passing it on to other people are extraordinarily low when you’ve had the vaccine.
Major League Baseball and the players association announced last week that 16 clubs had either reached the 85 percent vaccination threshold among Tier 1 individuals (12 clubs) or would within two weeks (four clubs). Neither the Cubs nor the Nationals had reached the 85 percent mark at that point.
Teams that reach the threshold are permitted to relax some health and safety protocols.
“That basically is the herd immunity, except that it’s at a local area instead of for the whole population,” Citronberg said. "The principal of herd immunity is basically that if enough percentage of the population is vaccinated, the virus really has nowhere left to go.”
Cubs manager David Ross, asked last week if he thought the Cubs would reach the 85 percent threshold this season, again said he didn’t know.
“I’m holding out hope,” Ross added, “and I feel like that might just be what it is right now.”