- Following the Los Angeles Lakers’ victory at the NBA Finals on Sunday, many celebrated the success of the NBA bubble, which effectively prevented the spread of COVID-19 among its players.
- No player who passed through quarantine tested positive for the virus after entering the strict bubble and no game was canceled as the result of an outbreak.
- This provides a stark contrast to the situations leagues like the MLB and NFL have found themselves in. Both have had to deal with large schedule changes due to outbreaks within teams.
- The NBA season also ended on a powerful note, with Lakers players dedicating their win to Kobe Bryant, who died earlier this year in a tragic helicopter crash with his daughter Gigi and seven others.
NBA Bubble Success
The Los Angeles Lakers had a lot to celebrate Sunday night after winning the NBA finals against the Miami Heat, but their victory wasn’t the only massive success story to come out of the turbulent basketball season.
The NBA bubble in Disney World, which was home to the season’s restart, proved to be a triumph. No player who cleared quarantine tested positive for the coronavirus and no games were canceled because of an outbreak. The NBA’s season initially shut down in March after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. It picked back up in the bubble with games starting at the end of July.
There was a lot of speculation as to whether or not holding a season in a contained environment would work, but the NBA has proved those doubts wrong. The NBA’s ability to contain the virus is especially impressive in contrast to the way other professional American sports leagues have handled their seasons amid the pandemic. By the halfway point of its season, the MLB had postponed over 40 games because of the virus, with two teams having significant outbreaks. The NFL is dealing with outbreaks of its own on the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans, resulting in schedule changes.
Many have praised NBA commissioner Adam Silver for the bubble’s success, including Shahbaz Khan, the digital director for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The NBA’s success relied on numerous health and safety strategies, including frequent COVID-19 testing. There were also strict quarantine rules that had to be followed upon entering the bubble, and once inside, players were not allowed to leave with very few exceptions. Outsiders were also not welcome inside, except for select Disney staff. However, as the playoffs picked up at the end of August, some team member’s families were allowed in as well.
“A major key to the bubble’s success was the NBA’s attention to detail on everything from logistics to event planning to internal communication,” Ben Golliver, an NBA reporter for The Washington Post, wrote in a piece detailing his life in the bubble. “There were many policies and rules, but they were logical and regularly reinforced.”
“The league’s leaders were receptive to feedback and open about their limitations, and their steadfast desire to complete the entire restart without a positive test revealed compassion rarely seen in big business,” Golliver added. “They had billions of reasons to keep everyone healthy, but their conduct and follow-through stood in stark contrast to those of leaders in the federal government and other sports.”
With its success, many now wonder how strategies similar to the bubble could be implemented in other businesses and areas of life. Golliver said that the bubble served as an “impressive public health achievement at a time when the United States desperately needed one.”
“It should stand as a model for what can be done when immense resources are deployed thoughtfully, in good faith and in line with medical and scientific recommendations,” he wrote.
Still, some thought that the bubble’s success relied on the massive amounts of funding put into it, which most facets of society cannot actually rely on or access.
“I was skeptical, but the NBA bubble actually worked,” said Josh Hamblin, a doctor and staff writer for The Atlantic. “It’s a testament to human ingenuity and resilience how quickly we can reinvent things and get people back to work, safely and effectively, when a group of billionaires has a direct financial stake in making it happen.”
Powerful Win for the Lakers
While the bubble may have dominated much of the discussion around this season, the finals still ended on a powerful note. The Lakers win was especially meaningful following the tragic helicopter crash earlier this year that left Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gigi, and seven others dead. Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, wrote in an Instagram story that she wished her husband and daughter were around to see the win. Players on the Lakers also dedicated their victory to the Lakers legend.
“I know he’s looking down on us proud of us. I know Vanessa’s proud of us, the organization’s proud of us,” said Anthony Davis. “It means a lot to us. It’s a tough moment, man. (cross talk among players) He was a big brother to all of us. We did this for him.”
This season was also rocked by fights for social justice by NBA players. Back in August, the players held a strike, refusing to play games in protest of police brutality following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. They chose to resume the season, and Lakers star LeBron James was considered to be a leader in making that choice.
James himself is generally seen as a leader when it comes to these movements in the league, making this win all the more impactful.
In Los Angeles, fans took to the downtown area to congregate at the Staples Center, despite pleas from Mayor Eric Garcetti to stay home and not form crowds at the arena during the pandemic.
Hundreds still gathered to celebrate. Eventually, the Los Angeles Police Department declared an unlawful assembly and arrested those refusing to leave the area.
A total of 76 people were arrested. Police said that the gatherings turned “confrontational, violent and destructive” as bottles, rocks, and other objects were thrown.
See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (Washington Post) (CBS News)
Amazon Backs GOP Bill to Legalize Marijuana in Effort to Ramp Up Lobbying
The proposal is the first Republican-sponsored marijuana bill Amazon has backed since the company first began lobbying for legalization last summer.
Amazon Endorses States Reform Act
Amazon announced Tuesday that it is endorsing a Republican-backed proposal to legalize marijuana.
The move comes as the e-commerce giant has ramped up its efforts to legalize cannabis on the federal level since it came out in support of the idea last summer. Amazon argues that the move would remove hiring barriers — which disproportionately impact people of color — and, in turn, could increase the company’s application pool and boost employee retention.
The company has previously backed similar proposals by forward by Democrats, but Tuesday’s announcement marks the first time Amazon has put its support behind a Republican-sponsored bill aimed at addressing the issue.
The legislation, called the States Reform Act, was authored by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.). Among other measures, it would remove cannabis as a Schedule I substance, allow states to create their own laws, impose an excise tax, and regulate the drug in a similar fashion to alcohol.
While Mace’s bill is fundamentally very similar to others put forth by Democrats, by proposing it herself, the Republican hopes to rally other members of her party around the idea that legalization is pro-business, pro-state’s rights, and anti-big government.
The measure has already received support from the highly influential conservative group, American’s for Prosperity, which is funded by the Koch brothers.
Mace and Amazon have painted the company’s endorsement as a game-changer for garnering more support — both from other large corporations and politicians on either side of the aisle. Mace specifically told reporters she believes Amazon’s decision will push other companies to do the same. If more major corporations like Amazon back the effort, other Republicans may be more persuaded to jump on board.
That sentiment was echoed by Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, who said in an interview with The Washington Post that the company was “particularly excited by Congresswoman Mace’s bill” because “it shows that there’s bipartisan support for this issue.”
Huseman also emphasized that, as part of its decision to back her bill, Amazon will use its powerful influence in Washington to try and drum up bipartisan support.
“We are talking with members of both parties, including Republicans, about why we think this is the right thing to do, especially from the standpoint of a major employer and what this means for our business and our employees and broadening the employee base,” he continued.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Forbes) (Marijuana Moment)
CDC Data Shows Booster Shots Provide Effective Protection Against Omicron
Public health experts have encouraged Americans to get boosted to protect themselves against the omicron variant, but less than 40% of fully vaccinated people who are eligible for their third shot have received it.
A First Glimpse of Official Data on Boosters and Omicron
COVID-19 booster shots are effective at preventing Americans from contracting omicron and protecting those who do become infected from severe illness, according to three reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published Friday.
The reports mark the first real-world data regarding the highly infectious variant and how it has impacted the U.S.
One of the CDC reports, which studied data from 25 state and local health departments, found that there were 149 cases per 100,000 people among those had been boosted on average each week.
In comparison, the figure was 255 cases per 100,000 people in Americans who had only received two shots.
Another study that looked at nearly 88,000 hospitalizations in 10 states found that the third doses were 90% effective at preventing hospitalization.
By contrast, those who received just two shots were only 57% protected against hospitalization by the time they were eligible for a booster six months after their second dose.
Additionally, the same report also found that the boosters were 82% effective at preventing visits to emergency rooms and urgent care centers, a marked increase from the 38% efficacy for those who were six months out from their two-shot regime and had not yet received a third.
Low Booster Shot Vaccination Rates
Public health officials hope that the new data will urge more Americans to get their booster shots.
Since the emergence of omicron, experts and leading political figures have renewed their efforts to encourage people to get their third shots, arguing they are the best form of protection.
The CDC currently recommends that everyone 12 and older get a booster shot five months after their second shot of Pfizer and Moderna or two months after receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Still, in the U.S., less than 40% of fully vaccinated individuals eligible for a third shot have gotten one.
While COVID cases in the country have begun to drop over the past several days from their peak of over 800,000 average daily infections, the figures are still nearly triple those seen in the largest previous surges.
Hospitalizations have also slowly begun to level out over the last week in places that were hit first, such as New York City and Boston, but medical resources still remain strained in many parts of the country that experienced later surges and have not yet seen cases slow.
Some experts predict that the U.S. will see a sharp decline in omicron cases, as experienced in South Africa and Britain. Still, they urge American’s to get boosted to ensure their continued protection from the variant, as well as other strains that will emerge.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CNN) (The New York Times)
California Bill Would Allow Kids 12 and Up to Get Vaccinated Without Parental Consent
Nearly one million California teens and preteens between the ages of 12 and 17 are not vaccinated against COVID-19.
State Senator Proposes Legislation
Legislation proposed in California on Thursday would allow children age 12 and up to get vaccinated without parental consent.
State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced Bill 866 in the hope it could boost vaccination rates among teenagers. According to Wiener, nearly one million kids aged 12- to 17-years old remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 in the state of California.
“Unvaccinated teens are at risk, put others at risk & make schools less safe,” Wiener tweeted. “They often can’t work, participate in sports, or go to friends’ homes.”
“Many want to get vaccinated but parents won’t let them or aren’t making the time to take them. Teens shouldn’t have to rely on parents’ views & availability to protect themselves from a deadly virus.”
Currently, teens in California can receive vaccines for human papillomavirus and hepatitis B without parental consent. They can also make other reproductive or mental healthcare choices without a guardian signing off. Wiener argues that their medical autonomy should expand to all vaccines, especially during a pandemic that has already killed roughly 78,000 Californians.
Vaccine Consent Across the U.S.
“Teens shouldn’t have to plot, scheme or fight with their parents to get a vaccine,” he said. “They should simply be able to walk in & get vaccinated like anyone else.”
Bill 866 would allow any kids ages 12 and up to receive any vaccine approved or granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Currently, Pfizer’s COVID vaccine has been fully approved by the FDA for those 16 and older. It has received emergency authorization for ages five through 15.
Across the United States, vaccine consent ages vary. While the vast majority of states require parental approval for minors to be vaccinated against COVID-19, kids as young as 11 can get the jab on their own in Washington, D.C. In Alabama, kids can receive it without parental consent at 14, in Oregon at 15, and in Rhode Island and South Carolina at 16. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, providers can waive consent in certain cases in Arkansas, Idaho, Washington, and Tennesee.
In October, California became the first state to announce plans to require that students receive the COVID-19 vaccine to attend class. The mandate has yet to take effect, but under the guidelines, students will be “required to be vaccinated for in person learning starting the term following FDA full approval of the vaccine for their grade span.”
In other words, once the FDA gives a vaccine full approval for those aged 12 and up, it will be required the following session for kids in grades 7-12. Once it does so for kids as young as five, the same process will happen for children in kindergarten through sixth grade. There will also be room for exemptions from the mandate.
The Fight to Vaccinate California
This week, a group of California state legislators formed a Vaccine Work Group in order to boost public health policies in the state. Wiener is among the several members who are “examining data, hearing from experts, and engaging stakeholders to determine the best approaches to promote vaccines that have been proven to reduce serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.”
“Vaccines protect not only individuals but also whole communities when almost everyone is vaccinated at schools, workplaces and businesses, and safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines have already prevented the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans,” Sen. Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) said in a press release. “Public safety is a paramount duty of government, and I am proud to join a talented group of legislators in the pro-science Vaccine Work Group who want to end this disastrous pandemic and protect Californians from death and disability by preventable diseases.”
While vaccine policies have been a divisive subject nationwide, including in California, state politicians and leaders are hopeful public health initiatives will prevail.
“If we allow disinformation to drive our state policy making we will not only see more Americans needlessly suffer and die, but we will sacrifice the long term stability of our society having effectively abandoned the idea that we all must work together to protect each other in times of crisis.” Catherine Flores Martin, the Executive Director of the California Immunization Coalition, added.