- The Washington Times - Monday, April 12, 2021

Many of the Washington Nationals players received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine in St. Louis on Monday, manager Dave Martinez said.

The process to allow the team to be vaccinated began in earnest after an outbreak of the virus sidelined nine players on the 40-man roster to begin the season and postponed Washington’s first four games.

All the impacted members of the Nationals — 11 total players and two staffers — have since cleared quarantine. Josh Bell, Kyle Schwarber and Josh Harrison arrived in St. Louis on Monday morning and have been inserted into the starting lineup immediately. The only player still missing is starting pitcher Jon Lester, who will be at the team’s alternate training site in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Lester will throw a bullpen session on Tuesday, then throw a simulated game later in the week before the team reevaluates him, Martinez said.

Martinez said he received the first dose of a vaccine a couple weeks ago, and he’s scheduled to receive his second later this week when the team returns to D.C. He said the Cardinals and MLB helped to coordinate the Nationals’ vaccinations. A doctor from Missouri visited the team’s hotel to administer the shots.

“You don’t know the reactions the guys are gonna have,” Martinez said. “We’ll know more in a few days. But like I said, for me, it’s the safest way to go about it with this pandemic, seeing what everybody has been through, not only in MLB but all over the country and this world. We got offered it, guys stepped up and got vaccinated and it was awesome.”

Martinez didn’t know yet if the Nationals had reached the 85% threshold. MLB is allowing looser coronavirus restrictions once the 85% threshold is met. That would include eating and drinking on flights for fully vaccinated players and staff; indoor gatherings would be allowed, so long as non-vaccinated people aren’t there; players could carpool or use ride-sharing apps.

Receiving the vaccine wasn’t mandatory, and Martinez said he isn’t concerned about any possible in-fighting based on who took the vaccine and who didn’t.

“The guys that want to get vaccinated had an opportunity to get vaccinated today and they did,” Martinez said. “And those guys that didn’t get it, the opportunity is still there for them. For whatever reason, it’s personal, but it doesn’t mean that they can’t get it in the future. Or if they don’t ever want to get it, that’s their choice.”

Washington is approaching a return to normalcy after the beginning of the season was disrupted through the coronavirus outbreak. The Nationals dropped five straight games after a season-opening win against the Atlanta Braves, but most of the team is now back in the equation to play.

The vaccinations give some more reassurance that another outbreak won’t occur.

“I’m excited that these guys did get vaccinated,” Martinez said. “Hopefully we’ve reached that 85%. Doesn’t mean that if we don’t now, that guys in the near future won’t decide to get it on their own But I’m excited that we all got it. Hopefully we can move forward from there.”

• Andy Kostka can be reached at akostka@washingtontimes.com.

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