'Ample chance' for more dangerous COVID variant if more Americans aren't vaccinated, Fauci says


KABC-TV 04 August, 2021 - 03:10pm 50 views

OK, so neither of those things will be happening anytime soon, but Rizzo continued to make his presence felt in his first week with the Yankees, helping spark Wednesday night’s 10-3 win over the Orioles at Yankee Stadium.

Box score

Rizzo’s fourth-inning solo home run seemed to wake the Yankees’ bats, which had gone hitless against Matt Harvey through the first three innings. Rizzo became the first player in Yanks history to record an RBI in each of his first six games with the club.

Facing a 3-0 deficit in the fourth, the Yankees scored twice in the inning, then tied the game in the fifth on DJ LeMahieu’s RBI single, the first of four RBIs for the second baseman. New York broke the game open with a five-run seventh, a rally highlighted by Giancarlo Stanton’s three-run double.

Read full article at KABC-TV

Even for vaccinated people, now is the time for masks and testing, public health experts say

NBC News 04 August, 2021 - 05:52pm

As the highly transmissible delta variant sweeps across every state in the country as the dominant strain of Covid-19, public health experts warn now is not the time to ditch masks or forgo testing.

If anything, the United States, particularly in areas where vaccination rates have stalled and coronavirus cases are rising, is at an urgent juncture in the pandemic, in which continued mask-wearing and testing are pivotal because of how quickly the variant has been spreading, the experts say.

"I think it's critical to be masking indoors no matter where you live," said Susan Hassig, an epidemiologist at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, on Wednesday as her home state of Louisiana was poised to exceed the peak of hospitalized Covid-19 patients since the pandemic began.

Every parish in the state is at the highest risk level, of red, and Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, announced Wednesday an indoor mask mandate through at least Sept. 1 for anyone ages 5 and older who enter places like schools, businesses and churches, no matter their vaccination status.

"I can't tell you how different it feels than ever before," Hassig said. "This virus is moving so fast. More and more counties on the local levels are turning orange and red every day. It's critical to mask and test on suspicion of exposure."

Other parts of the South, including Florida and Tennessee, are also struggling with Covid-19 surges as their vaccination rates remain below 50 percent of their populations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending masks be worn indoors in places with substantial or high Covid-19 transmission or test positivity rates, which is currently about 80 percent of all U.S. counties.

Karl Minges, the interim dean of the school of health sciences at the University of New Haven, said it's time for the majority of Americans to get back to early pandemic basics, no matter their vaccination status: Wear a mask, especially indoors; socially distance; and hand-sanitize. He said to try to continue most activities outdoors, whether eating or attending a concert, and be aware of how crowded it may be and what the Covid-19 positivity rate is for the area.

"The goal is to not return to the precautions of 2020, and that is unlikely the more people who become vaccinated," Minges added.

On Tuesday, New York City became the first major city in the country to require proof of vaccination for indoor activities at restaurants, gyms and performance spaces, with full enforcement coming in September. While about 55 percent of the city's population is fully vaccinated, the rate of new vaccinations has leveled off in recent months, and about 72 percent of tested cases of the coronavirus have been attributed to the delta variant, city health data show.

While many Broadway shows are still eyeing returns in September, major events are being scrapped because of the delta variant's rise. The 2021 New York International Auto Show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in midtown Manhattan, which can draw about 1 million people, was canceled Wednesday, just two weeks before it was scheduled to start.

Elsewhere, it's business as usual: Concerts are selling out at near-record levels, and major festivals like Lollapalooza, which was in Chicago over the weekend and attracted hundreds of thousands of attendees, are going on as planned.

Attending an outdoor concert in small social bubbles if you are vaccinated and unmasked is OK and should be up to a person's comfort level, said Dr. Emily Landon, executive medical director for infection prevention and control at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

But that social setting is not the same as attending a large-scale event like a music festival where people are smushed together. The problem, Landon said, is the delta variant is more contagious than earlier forms of Covid-19, and at outings where large groups of people are interacting within a 6-foot radius, the window of time needed to transmit the virus is smaller.

"Before you had to spend 15 minutes inside your 6-foot radius; now you only need to spend a couple of minutes in there" for exposure, she said.

However, sporting events like a baseball game are different, she said, because people are typically socially distanced, may be wearing masks and often face outward, and even if they're waiting in a line, they're not bunched up in crowds like at a music festival.

Experts say masks are especially important if you're going to be around people whose vaccination statuses are unclear and you can't keep your distance.

"You probably could have gotten away with not getting masked in a workplace if everyone was vaccinated pre-delta," Hassig said. "But delta is different."

Hassig also suggested that people consider enforcing masks again for weddings and parties, even if they're outdoors, if there are no vaccination requirements and people are socializing in close proximity.

"You may have medically vulnerable people coming, and it's only reasonable to think about what you need to do so that Granny doesn't catch coronavirus," she said.

Covid-19 testing also should be utilized if someone is feeling sick or may have been exposed, experts say. Some employers, like big tech companies and government agencies, will require Covid-19 vaccinations for employees if they want to return to the office following months of working from home, and in some cases, those who refuse will be subject to regular testing.

Landon said fully vaccinated people don't need to get tested regularly but should if they have symptoms of Covid-19 or were exposed to someone who tested positive.

The CDC suggests fully vaccinated people get tested three to five days after exposure, even if the vaccinated person has no symptoms because they could be asymptomatic. So-called breakthrough cases of Covid-19 in which vaccinated people can get infected remains extremely rare, health officials say, and is not a failure of vaccines.

The CDC's recently updated mask guidelines were devised "to ensure the vaccinated public would not unknowingly transmit virus to others, including their unvaccinated or immunocompromised loved ones," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said last week.

Hassig also suggested testing if you're going to be amid a large gathering where you don't know vaccination statuses — similar to what people were doing last summer when Covid-19 vaccines were unavailable.

Ultimately, because standard Covid-19 tests cannot specify whether someone has the delta variant, experts say it's safe to assume that if you test positive, you have the strain.

"That genie is out of the bottle," Hassig said, "and unfortunately, it's a really nasty one."

Erik Ortiz is a staff writer for NBC News focusing on racial injustice and social inequality.

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How did the USWNT fall short of Olympic gold? Rating the many theories

Spectrum News NY1 04 August, 2021 - 01:54pm

No teams in your favorites yet.

Why has the No. 1-ranked U.S. women's national team struggled so much at the Tokyo Olympics? Not even the players and staff seem to know.

"I don't know," Carli Lloyd said after the USWNT's 1-0 upset loss to Canada in the semifinal. "I don't know in this moment. It happens, you know? You can't win them all."

Coach Vlatko Andonovski was at a similar loss on Monday, telling reporters, "I don't really know," before adding: "I guess we're going to have to go back and dig a little deeper and find out what is it that didn't go the way we wanted."

Without any clear-cut explanations for why a team that dominated its way through a World Cup two years ago suddenly looked so disjointed and ineffective at the Tokyo Olympics, plenty of outside theories have floated around.

Here is a look at some of the top theories and our ratings (10=super likely, 1=unlikely) of how likely it is that each actually contributed to the USWNT's loss:

It's easy to look at the average age of the USWNT's roster at the Olympics and point to that as the problem. All of the USWNT's primary attackers are over the age of 30, except Lynn Williams, who is 28. The USWNT's two biggest clutch players, Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe, who were heroes in previous tournaments, are 39 and 36, respectively, and both are clearly a step slower than they once were.

But there's other important context. First, being the oldest team in a tournament hasn't hurt the USWNT before. The USWNT had the oldest squads at both the 2015 World Cup and the 2019 World Cup, and they won both. It's lazy to say that a team isn't good just because it's old.

More importantly, the USWNT's problem in Japan wasn't its older players. Did Lloyd and Rapinoe have good tournaments? No. But how do you explain, for instance, the uncharacteristic struggles of Samantha Mewis, the 28-year-old central midfielder who many analysts have considered to be the best player in the world?

Basic execution of the soccer fundamentals -- like dribbling and passing -- was sloppy, and that happened all the way up and down the roster. As Rapinoe -- the most honest and blunt player on the team -- said after the tournament-opening Sweden loss, the U.S. was "doing dumb stuff, like not passing the ball, not trapping the ball." After the loss to Canada, her assessment was nearly the same: "Too many errors from us, again. The space was there for us to play in, and we just couldn't get into it -- too many touches or an errant touch."

Still, Andonovski may have found some benefit in bringing more younger players to the tournament -- and then actually playing them -- but it would've been less about their age than... (onto the next category...)

When a team has won a World Cup in the unrelenting fashion the USWNT did in France in 2019, it would be tempting for any new coach to run it back. Andonovski already knew these players could succeed together in the pressure cooker of a major tournament, but what the USWNT seemed to lack more than pure fitness was desire.

The players, of course, will tell you they wanted it. The veterans wanted to go out on top as they (likely) end their careers. The younger players wanted to win their first medal in an Olympics. Yet it's hard not to notice that the one field player who had a standout performance in the entire tournament was Lynn Williams, who notched a goal and an assist against the Netherlands.

Williams is playing in her first major tournament, one of the only players on the entire roster to do so. Under both Andonovski and previous coach Jill Ellis, Williams has not been the USWNT's best attacking player -- there's a reason why she didn't make any tournament rosters under Ellis and why she originally made the Olympic roster as an alternate -- and yet she played in Japan like she had a lot more to prove than anyone else.

With the Olympics being pushed back a year, Andonovski arguably had the time to break away from merely copying-and-pasting the World Cup roster and finding some players hungry to make their mark. At a minimum, it would've pushed the veterans harder as they fought to keep their spots going into the tournament, but it could've yielded some more dynamic options for Tokyo.

In any tournament where a bunch of games are packed into a short period of time, a coach has one of two ways to approach it: consistency for the sake of chemistry, or rotation to keep the players fresh for each game. Andonovski clearly leaned toward rotation. Perhaps he was mindful of his roster's age, or perhaps he just knew that playing a game every three days is a lot for players of any age.

Rapinoe wondered after the semifinal if rotation was a problem but then dismissed it.

"It just didn't click for us," Rapinoe said. "I don't know if it was just roster rotations a lot. I know it's a tough tournament, trying to save people. But our bench is deep as hell, so I don't think we can really put it on that. I can't quite put my finger on it; I've tried, I've been thinking about it the whole tournament. We just didn't have that juice that we normally do."

If the concern about rotations is a drop-off in quality, Rapinoe was right to dismiss that. The substitutes for the USWNT are as good as its starters, and the USWNT never loses individual quality by rotating players. But as a collective, that's a different story, and the USWNT's biggest problem in Japan has seemed to be a lack of chemistry.

While we can't see what's happening behind the scenes to build that chemistry, we do know that there wasn't much consistency in games. Look no further than an unprecedented nine goals called offside throughout the tournament as tangible proof that the players just weren't on the same page.

"There was a lot of rotation, so in a way I think we had the freshest legs of any team," Alex Morgan said after the semifinal. "But [other teams] also had the consistency in the line-ups. So that's what you have to weigh in tournament like this. It's very different than a World Cup. There were more substitutions than there's ever been, so it's very different."

It's unclear if Morgan was hinting that the higher amount of allowed substitutions meant that less rotation should have been needed; it would have been a good point, too. With five substitutes, it probably wasn't necessary to introduce five different starting line-ups in five games. If Andonovski had stuck to more consistent starting line-ups, he could have made better use of his substitutions to make sure impactful players were coming into games, instead of just taking players off for the sake of it.

Anyone who claims that the USWNT struggled in Japan because they were too distracted by social justice is someone who clearly does not watch the USWNT and has never watched the USWNT. These are people who should be laughed at or ignored.

The USWNT has historically been one of the most dominant teams in sports, period, and they've done it all while constantly fighting for better treatment and better pay. Seriously, there's a whole book about it, but you don't even have to look back any further than the 2019 World Cup. The USWNT filed their equal pay lawsuit only months prior, Megan Rapinoe got into a fight with Donald Trump (which he started, for some reason), and both the USWNT and Rapinoe crushed their competition.

The evidence is clear: the USWNT has won more tournaments while caring about social justice than not.

Fans of the USWNT are very accustomed to winning. So accustomed, in fact, that a single loss is enough to set off calls to fire a coach, which has created a culture where it can be difficult for coaches to experiment and take the risks that result in losses.

But losses are good. Jill Ellis has said that losing games before the 2015 World Cup allowed the team to win the trophy, and she thinks the USWNT probably wouldn't have gone as far without those losses. It's easy to see why, too: defeats force a hard self-examination of weaknesses and shake away any feelings of complacency.

Coming into the Olympics, Vlatko Andonovski had never lost a game with the USWNT, and the team was riding a 44-game unbeaten streak when it arrived in Japan. Where, then, was any serious introspection going to come from? What would have prompted players to look in the mirror and dig a little deeper? It appears the answer is that those things went missing in Japan.

Americans will follow the USWNT anywhere. During the 2019 Women's World Cup in France, Reims, a quaint city known for its champagne production and Gothic architecture, looked like an American resort town at the start of the tournament. As soon as the USWNT left, the throngs of traveling American fans did too, following the USWNT from city to city across France. The players admitted that every match in France, except the quarterfinal against France, felt like a home game.

But no Americans have followed the USWNT to Japan.

Due to the pandemic, the USWNT's games have been mostly played in empty, dead-silent stadiums. The players have insisted it's not a big deal -- they've gotten used to it during the pandemic. But the truth is, if fans were allowed in Japan, no other non-host team would have as much support as the USWNT. It's hard to measure the impact of it, but ask any athlete: fans add that extra push, and for the USWNT, that extra bit of swagger to put on a show.

"With it being a major tournament without fans, we know that energy and everything is gonna come from us," Rose Lavelle said during the group stage. "It comes from every single player and staff member, so that's something we've been emphasizing too."

But it clearly hasn't worked, and there's no substitute for a stadium of mostly USWNT fans. The lack of fans may only be one piece of the psychological difficulty of the past 16 months during the pandemic, but it's an important piece.

The fact is, women's soccer has been growing at a rapid pace for several years now, and there have been very good teams capable of beating the USWNT all along. The 2019 Women's World Cup was easily the most difficult in history -- more teams looked like title contenders than ever -- and just because the USWNT won it in impressive fashion, that doesn't mean it wasn't tough.

Sure, it's possible the USWNT's failure to reach the gold-medal match in Tokyo will signal a new shift in women's soccer where the USWNT never reaches a final again. But that seems highly improbable unless the USWNT disbands tomorrow.

In truth, there are several teams that can win any major tournament, and that number is indeed growing, but the USWNT reaching a final is never a given. It wasn't a given in 2016, when the USWNT got knocked out in the quarterfinal at the Rio Olympics, and it wasn't a given in 1995, 2003 or 2007, when the USWNT didn't reach the finals of those World Cups either.

Looking at the USWNT's performances, rather than the results, is certainly disheartening. By the players' own admissions, they looked bad, both as a collective group and as individuals. For fans, the team on the field was unrecognizable at times.

But reaching the final four of a major tournament isn't terrible, all things considered. The USWNT has only failed to get that far once in the team's entire history, and that was at the 2016 Olympics with a loss in the quarterfinal. That arguably puts the Tokyo Olympics in line with the USWNT's expected results.

"This was my eighth tournament, and they've all been different," Lloyd said after the loss to Canada. "They've all had a different storyline, they've all started and finished in a different fashion, some have been pretty, some have been ugly and some we've just scraped by. This one, we didn't get by."

It's easy to forget that the USWNT won a World Cup in 2015 playing rough soccer for most of the tournament. The first few games looked so bad that pundits and former USWNT players were questioning why coach Jill Ellis hadn't been fired already. The USWNT grew into its later games -- something this team couldn't do in Japan -- but it was far from invincible.

Sometimes in past tournaments, the ball seemed to bounce the USWNT's way, even when they weren't playing well. The USWNT had no such luck in this go-round, and sometimes luck makes all the difference.

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