Nationals requiring full-time staffers to be vaccinated

The Nationals have become one of baseball’s first teams to require COVID-19 vaccinations for employees, a club official confirmed this afternoon.

The Nats informed all full-time staff members earlier this month they would be required to provide proof of vaccination or valid reason to be exempted. The deadline for employees to do so was Thursday.

“Like many organizations, the Washington Nationals decided to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for all full-time staff,” the club said in a statement. “Employees were notified of this policy on Aug. 12 and had until Aug. 26 to either provide proof of full vaccination, proof of first shot or apply for an exemption.

“As a company, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to keep one another safe and felt that mandating vaccines was the absolute right thing to do for our employees and our community.”

nats-nationals-park-overhead.jpgOnly full-time staff members are subject to the vaccine requirement. Players cannot be required to be vaccinated unless Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association collectively bargain a policy.

The vast majority of Nationals players and Tier 1 staffers (such as coaches, trainers and other support staff who are in close contact with players on a daily basis) already were vaccinated earlier this season. They crossed the league’s 85 percent threshold to have restrictions eased at the end of May, though a handful of holdouts remain.

The Nationals have had three separate coronavirus incidents among the roster and coaching staff this season. Nine players began the season on the COVID-19 injured list after four tested positive leading up to opening day. Right-handers Erick Fedde, who was vaccinated but still tested positive, and Tanner Rainey, who was deemed a close contact, went on the COVID-19 IL in May. And four more players, headlined by Trea Turner, and the majority of manager Davey Martinez’s coaching staff tested positive in late July.

Employees who did not wish to receive the vaccine were given the option of applying for a medical or religious exemption, which will now be reviewed by the organization. If the exemption is declined, the employee would no longer be allowed to work for the club.

ESPN was first to report the Nationals’ vaccine mandate, also reporting the Astros had enacted a similar mandate, making the cohabitants of their shared spring training facility in West Palm Beach, Fla., the first MLB clubs to take this step.

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