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Eight members of the New York Yankees – Gleyber Torres ’All-Star team, along with seven coaches and staff members – tested positive for coronavirus this week, although they were all vaccinated.
The outbreak of so-called “breakthrough” cases was first discovered on Sunday as the team flew to Florida for a series against the Tampa Bay Rays. Seven more people, including Torres, tested positive for the next three days.
Of the eight positive cases, the Yankees said, seven were asymptomatic. One person reported “some symptoms,” according to the team.
No new cases were reported on Thursday, although the Yankees continue to test and search for contacts on a daily basis.
The scientists stressed that the team’s cases are in line with what is already known about vaccines. “Cases of vaccine discovery are expected,” the CDC writes in its text information page about breakthrough cases. The agency says at least 9,245 outbreaks of 95 million Americans who completed a vaccination course at least two weeks ago have been reported.
“Many people may be wondering, with 8 broken cases of Yankees vaccinated – is this proof that vaccines are not as effective as we thought?” Zach Binney, an epidemiologist at Emory University, wrote on Twitter. “The short answer is no.”
“We know these vaccines are really good, but they are not 100% protected from all infections,” said Saad Omer, director of the Yale Institute of Global Health. “They’re much more protective of the consequences of that infection, like hospitalization or death.”
Here’s what else you need to know about the Yankees outbreak:
This number of breakthrough infections is consistent with what scientists know about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
All positive cases of the Yankees were vaccinated with the one-time Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which baseball teams favored with a complex travel schedule. According to the team, players and staff, the vaccine was offered together on April 7.
In clinical trials, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was 100% effective in preventing hospitalization and death. As for the prevention of any type of COVID-19 infection, the vaccine was 66 to 72% effective.
“It means that there will be a gap in protection, in the sense that there will be some people who will get infected,” Omer said. “But the reassuring part is that these cases weren’t difficult.”
Scientists say given the size of the team’s passenger team, fewer people are likely to be infected than would otherwise be expected. The number of cases is consistent with what we know about the effectiveness of the vaccine.
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is not currently investigating the outbreak, the agency’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky told reporters at a White House briefing Thursday that they hope to find out more.
“We will look for more data from that report to understand what happened there,” she said. “All the real-world data we’ve seen, and it’s in the published literature, large studies in many different settings have shown that these vaccines are effective and have high efficacy against the disease.”
Also in line with expectations: Most cases of discovery are asymptomatic.
Of the eight Yankees outbreaks, seven are asymptomatic. Reportedly, one symptomatic case is mild.
All coronavirus vaccines approved for use in the United States, including the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, are extremely effective in preventing severe cases of illness, hospitalization, and death.
“Vaccines are good at preventing infection and transmission, but they work RAD in preventing serious illness,” Binney said. on Twitter. “They’re like a strong wind from the outside – [home runs] become doubles, couples become cars. “
“I think one of the things we see is that mass vaccination as we are, we see vaccinations somehow masking the effects of the virus,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters ahead of the team’s games on Wednesday.
These asymptomatic cases were partly detected because MLB players and staff are tested much more frequently than the general population.
MLB conducts thousands of tests on players, coaches and staff every week. Over the past week, the league has conducted 10,629 tests, of which only ten were positive, coinciding with the Yankees ’outbreak.
The Yankees revealed their first positive case on Sunday as the team flew to Tampa for a series against the Rays.
Afterwards they immediately started testing all of their traveling entertainment, which New York Times reported to be about 50 or 60 people, three times a day – one PCR test, one saliva test and one rapid test.
Most Americans seek tests only if they show symptoms of a possible COVID-19 infection. Currently, less than a million tests are conducted daily in the United States, which means that only one in 330 Americans passes the test on any given day.
The Yankees worked and traveled together nearby without masks and other preventative measures.
As an incentive for teams to vaccinate as many people as possible, MLB and its player union have agreed to relax some coronavirus-related protocols if teams are able to vaccinate 85% their players and certain staff.
The Yankees are one of a dozen teams that have reached that threshold, according to the league, and four more will join them after two weeks have passed since their last hit.
This means that Yankees players and staff did not have to wear masks while gathering at the club or training rooms. They were also allowed to dine in indoor restaurants and share club facilities such as saunas and entertainment rooms.
In light of the outbreak, the team has since re-adopted many of these preventative measures, according to Boone.
“We will cover up the masks. We will keep our distance,” Yankees pitcher Jameson Taillon said Wednesday. “We’ll do whatever it takes to get into this season.”
Reporting was given by NPR scientific correspondent Rob Stein.