With the Yankees dealing with eight breakthrough cases, general manager Brian Cashman expressed his confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines and noted that the damage could have been worse without them.
Shortstop Gleyber Torres became the eighth member of the Yankees’ traveling party to test positive for COVID-19 on Thursday. Like the previous seven, all coaches and support staff, Torres is a breakthrough case, someone who became infected after being fully vaccinated. Torres also already had the virus last December and had antibodies, making his case a reinfection.
He was placed on the COVID IL. Torres, like the other seven, is asymptomatic. Third base coach Phil Nevin, the only member of the organization to show symptoms, is now symptom free, according to Cashman.
All those who tested positive received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was “66.3% effective in clinical trials (efficacy) at preventing laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 illness,” per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Yankees have been tested multiple times since the first positive test on Sunday.
“A small percentage of people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will still develop COVID-19 illness,” the CDC says of breakthrough cases. As for reinfections, cases have been previously reported, “but remain rare.”
The Yankees, with a high number of breakthrough cases, have caught the eye of the CDC, which plans to investigate the situation. The New York State Department of Health is also looking into the matter and working with the Yankees and Major League Baseball.
"With regard to the Yankees, we obviously need to learn more about that situation," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday prior to the announcement about Torres, per ABC 7 New York. "My understanding is that six of the seven reports, six of the seven infections were indeed asymptomatic infections. And we will look to more data from that report to understand what happened there. All of the real-world data we've seen that's been in the published literature, large studies, in many different settings, have demonstrated that those vaccines are effective, have a high effectiveness against disease."
Cashman, speaking after Torres’ positive test was announced, echoed similar confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines, noting that the infected Yankees were better off being inoculated.
“When you read the fine print, they tell you that you still could get the COVID and the vaccine is to protect you from the symptoms,” he said, also noting Nevin’s quick recovery. “It’s not full protection… The one thing I take from this is I believe the vaccine is working. We’ve got eight positives, and seven of the eight presented as without symptoms, so without testing you wouldn’t have even known.”
Cashman went on to call the Yankees “a case study to some degree.” The good news is that all those who are infected now feel fine and that the Yankees had not received any additional positive tests Thursday at the time of Cashman’s Zoom call. Those who tested positive will remain quarantined in Tampa, where the Yankees are finishing a series against the Rays on Thursday night.
Cashman said that will be a boring experience, but those in isolation will at least be able to order room service, watch the team and catch up on TV shows. The “thankful” general manager stressed that it could have been a lot worse.
“Unfortunately, I have eight people quarantined, but they feel good… That will be mentally draining,” Cashman said of quarantine, “but that is far less than the other consequences if they weren’t vaccinated, which gave them more protection. So my message is… Get vaccinated, because it will save you and protect you from a lot more than what you think.”
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