The Latest: 16 MLB teams able to relax COVID protocols

Sports

New York Knicks’ Derrick Rose (4) makes a 3-point shot as Atlanta Hawks’ Bogdan Bogdanovic (13) defends during the fourth quarter of Game 2 in an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Wednesday, May 26, 2021, in New York. (Elsa/Pool Photo via AP)

The Latest on the effects of the coronavirus outbreak on sports around the world:

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A majority of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams have been able to relax coronavirus protocols after two additional clubs qualified and raised the total to 16 franchises reaching 85% vaccinations for players and other on-field personnel.

However, the pace of vaccinations has slowed markedly.

The commissioner’s office and the players’ association said Friday that three additional teams had reached the 85% level of having received final doses and would be able to relax protocols within the next two weeks once they are fully vaccinated. The teams were not identified.

Relaxed protocols include dropping the requirements for facemasks in dugouts and bullpens, and loosening restrictions on mobility during road trips.

MLB said more than 84% of all Tier 1 individuals — such as players, managers, coaches, trainers and support personnel — had been partially or fully vaccinated.

So far this season, there have been 62 positive tests — 34 players, 28 staff — among 176,260 samples tested, a 0.035% positive rate. The positive tests are among 23 teams.

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The New York Knicks will sell tickets only to fully vaccinated fans if they reach the second round of the playoffs.

The Knicks announced Friday that Game 5 of their first-round series against Atlanta has already sold out, with more than 16,000 fans expected on Wednesday.

More than 90% of those in attendance for the first two games of the series were fully vaccinated. Fans in fully vaccinated sections are not required to social distance or wear masks when seated, and those sections were full and loud in the Knicks’ first two playoff games since 2013.

“It’s moments like this that show us what’s possible if everyone gets vaccinated — we’ll all be able to get back to doing what we love — and that definitely includes being together to cheer on the Knicks at Madison Square Garden,” MSG Sports executive vice president David Hopkinson said in a statement.

The series is 1-1, with Game 3 on Friday in Atlanta.

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