For Cubs, MLB, COVID-19 Protocols Critical Again in 2022 – NBC Chicago

Are we post-COVID yet? Ask Tommy Nance, Brailyn Márquez originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Most of the Cubs’ championship core is gone this year — along with MLB’s lockout, the one-game wild-card playoff, pitchers batting and geopolitical stability in Europe.

What’s more, All-Star catcher Willson Contreras and extreme shifts are probably next.

The only thing that doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon is the only thing everybody from baseball people to elected officials seem to be trying to wish away: COVID-19.

No? A few days ago, Cubs pitcher Tommy Nance quietly went back on the COVID-related injury list, where he finished last season as part of the Cubs’ final-week outbreak. And Brailyn Márquez, the Cubs’ top pitching prospect, had a serious enough COVID-19 case last April that he developed a case of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart, the pitcher told the Chicago Tribune — and wasn’t cleared to throw again until November.

RELATED: Cubs prospect Márquez had myocarditis in 2021

He just turned 23.

That’s scary stuff — even if, as the Cubs hope and expect, he’s fully recovered and has no lingering adverse effects.

Mostly, Márquez and Nance should serve as reminders that three years into this thing, we do not live in a post-pandemic world, no matter how much of the hemisphere this side of Canada wants to pretend we do.

RELATED: Happ: Canada’s vaccine mandate subject of ongoing talks

People are still dying from the virus, though in dramatically smaller numbers among the vaccinated. And yet millions of Americans still choose not to be vaccinated, with the subject inexplicably having been politicized in a way that would have seemed inconceivable to past generations with polio, measles or flu vaccines.

The Cubs were one of the least-vaccinated teams in the majors last year.

And there’s not a state left that hasn’t lifted its mask mandates, among those that had any in the first place.

And now — just as media are allowed back in MLB clubhouses and the United Center has lifted vaccine requirements for fans to coincide with this weekend’s NCAA regionals — we are learning about a new BA.2 sub-variant of the Omicron variant that proved more contagious than previous versions of the COVID-19 virus.

Experts say BA.2 appears to be even more contagious than its Omicron relative but that, like that one, causes less incidence of the most severe reactions. And the vaccines so far appear to remain effective against the new sub-variant, especially with a booster.

RELATED: Vax status won’t keep Cubs from signing a player

The point isn’t that this is any worse than last year, when MLB played a full season after having lost more than half the 2020 season to the pandemic.

It’s that the pandemic isn’t over. No matter how tired and angry we are as it enters its third year in this country.

And one of the worst things we can do is pretend that it is.

Maybe this is with us to stay at some level, and maybe that makes this a new-normal, COVID-included world.

Just don’t make the mistake of assuming that means post-COVID, or even post-pandemic just yet.

MLB is expected to finalize and release its 2022 COVID-19 protocols next week, and the hope is there’s enough vigilance, common sense and redoubled prevention efforts to keep at least that part of the world headed in the right and healthiest direction.

That already includes requiring media to be vaxed, with up-to-date boosters, and to wear masks in order to be allowed in clubhouses — rightfully so.

The protocols will be even more important in the wake of Wednesday’s news that New York City plans to lift its vaccine mandate for athletes of local teams — including the Yankees and Mets — on Thursday.

With the season opening in two weeks, here’s to strong enough measures in the protocols to keep everyone in the game safe.

And to enough patience, wisdom and luck on the field, in the bleachers, at the United Center — and anywhere else people gather — to prevent another surge, to prevent even one more mandate, to prevent even one more COVID death.

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