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MLB tightens coronavirus rules, requiring masks in dugouts and compliance officers

Yankees Manager Aaron Boone is among those masked up for the national anthem before a recent game against the Red Sox. (Kathy Willens / Associated Press)

After coronavirus outbreaks forced Major League Baseball to postpone 21 games over the first two weeks of its season, it will strengthen its protocols, including requiring players and staff to wear face coverings at all times, except for players on the field of play.

Teams were informed of the changes in a memo obtained by the Associated Press, which said they were told that repeated or flagrant violations could cause a team to be banned for the rest of the 2020 season and/or postseason.

Players are required to wear face masks while in the dugout or bullpen, something its operations manual had not stipulated before. Since games have begun, most players have not worn masks in the dugout and have been shown exchanging high fives, failing to observe social distancing and spitting. The memo also indicates that umpires must wear face masks at all times, unless they cannot do their jobs.

The Nationals, used to spitting and sunflower seeds, have a new way to kick their habits: Masks

Each team’s compliance officer will enforce protocols, which require players and staff to wear face coverings at all times in hotels and in public places, including on team buses and airplanes. While on the road, teams were told to provide a large private room or ballroom where staff and players can get food and maintain social distancing. Players who want to leave the team hotel must get approval from their compliance officer.

Teams are being told to limit the size of their traveling parties to essential personnel and to have unoccupied rows on team buses and to maintain distance seating on flights.

Teams were told to provide covered outdoor spaces and to have areas where players for both teams can maintain social distance during weather delays. Players will be told to use those areas rather than hanging out in clubhouses.

During homestands, players and staff are prohibited from going to places where groups of people gather, like bars or malls.

Coronavirus: What you need to know

Vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get an updated covid booster shot designed to target both the original virus and the omicron variant. Here’s some guidance on when you should get the omicron booster and how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections.

Variants: Instead of a single new Greek letter variant, a group of immune-evading omicron spinoffs are popping up all over the world. Any dominant variant will likely knock out monoclonal antibodies, targeted drugs that can be used as a treatment or to protect immunocompromised people.

Tripledemic: Hospitals are overwhelmed by a combination of respiratory illnesses, staffing shortages and nursing home closures. And experts believe the problem will deteriorate further in coming months. Here’s how to tell the difference between RSV, the flu and covid-19.

Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.

Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. In the U.S., pandemic trends have shifted and now White people are more likely to die from covid than Black people. Nearly nine out of 10 covid deaths are people over the age 65.

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