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NBA “Bubble” Proves Successful as Season Comes to a Close

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  • 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)

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Contradicting Studies Leave Biden’s COVID-19 Booster Plan Up in the Air

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While some studies show that the effectiveness of Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID vaccines decrease over time, other publications argue the decline is not substantial and a full-flung booster campaign is premature.


Booster Rollout in Flux

President Joe Biden’s plan to offer COVID-19 booster shots is facing serious hurdles just a week before it is set to roll out. Issues with the plan stem from growing divisions among the scientific community over the necessity of a third jab.

The timing of booster shots administration has been a point of contention for months, but the debate intensified in August when Biden announced that, pending regulatory approval, the government would start offering boosters on Sept. 20 to adults eight months after they received their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna.

The announcement was backed by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, among others.

However, many scientists and other health experts both inside and outside of the government have continually criticized the plan. They have claimed the data supporting boosters was not compelling and argued that, while the FDA approved third doses for immunocompromised Americans, the push to give them to the general public was premature.

The plan also drew international backlash from those who argued the U.S. should not launch a booster campaign when billions of people around the world have not gotten their first dose yet. Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) extended its request that wealthy countries hold off on giving boosters until at least the end of the year.

Those arguments appeared to be bolstered when federal health regulators said earlier this month that they needed more time to review Moderna’s application for booster shots, forcing the Biden Administration to delay offering third shots to those who received that vaccine.

Now, Pfizer recipients will be the only people who may be eligible for boosters by the initial deadline, though that depends on a forthcoming decision from an FDA expert advisory committee that is set to vote Friday on whether or not to recommend approval.

Debate Continues in Crucial Week

More contradictory information has been coming out in the days leading up to the highly anticipated decision.

On Monday, an international group of 18 scientists, including some at the FDA and the WHO, published a review in The Lancet arguing that there is no credible data to show the vaccines’ ability to prevent severe disease declined substantially over time, so boosters are not yet needed for the general, non-immunocompromised public.

The experts claimed that any advantage boosters may provide does not outweigh the benefit of giving the extra doses to all those who are unvaccinated worldwide. 

On the other side, a study released Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine found that people who received a third shot of Pfizer in Israel were much less likely to develop severe COVID than those who just had the first two jabs.

The same day, both Pfizer and Moderna published data backing that up as well. Pfizer released an analysis that said data on boosters and the Delta variant from both Israel and the U.S. suggested “that vaccine protection against COVID-19 infection wanes approximately 6 to 8 months following the second dose.” 

Moderna also published data, that has not yet been peer-reviewed, which also found its jab provided less immunity and protection against severe disease as time went on.

Further complicating matters was the fact that the FDA additionally released its report on Pfizer’s analysis of the need for a booster shortly after Pfizer’s publication. Normally, those findings would shine a light on the agency’s stance on the issue, but the regulator did not take a clear stand.

“Some observational studies have suggested declining efficacy of [Pfizer] over time […] while others have not,” the agency wrote. “Overall, data indicate that currently US-licensed or authorized COVID-19 vaccines still afford protection against severe COVID-19 disease and death.”

Uncertain Future

It remains unclear what the FDA panel will determine when they meet Friday, or what a similar CDC expert panel that is expected to meet next week will decide regarding vaccination policies.

Notably, officials at the two agencies are not required to follow the recommendations of their expert panels, though they usually do.

Even if the FDA approves Pfizer’s application as it stands to give boosters to those 16 and older, people familiar with the matter said the CDC might recommend the third jabs only for people 65 and older or those who are especially at risk.

Regardless of what is decided, experts have said that it is absolutely essential for the agency to stand firm in its decision and clearly explain its reasoning to the public in order to combat further confusion and misinformation.

“F.D.A. does the best in situations when there are strongly held but conflicting views, when they’re forthcoming with the data and really explain decisions,” Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a vice dean at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health told The New York Times. “It’s important for the F.D.A. not to say, ‘Here’s our decision, mic drop. It’s much better for them to say, ‘Here’s how we looked at the data, here are the conclusions we made from the data, and here’s why we’re making the conclusions.’”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNBC) (The Guardian)

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Kansas Lawmaker Accused of Kicking Teen in Groin Receives Suspended Sentence

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Before allegedly assaulting the teenager in class, the lawmaker and former substitute teacher ranted to students about God, the Bible, Masturbation, and more.


Samsel Displays Inappropriate Behavior

Kansas Rep. Mark Samsel (R) was given a 90-day suspended jail sentence and one year of probation Monday after pleading guilty to three misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct. 

Samsel, a former high school substitute teacher in Wellsville, initially caused outrage in April after displaying bizarre classroom behavior. Footage recorded by students and published by the Kansas City Star showed Samsel ranting about the wrath of God, the Bible, masturbation, suicide, and other topics. At one point, he allegedly even pushed a student against a wall and kicked him in the groin.

While that specific altercation doesn’t appear to have been caught on video, student footage shows what seems to be the aftermath of the alleged assault.

“I’m simply built different, Mark. I don’t feel pain,” the student jokingly tells Samsel after picking himself up off the ground. Samsel responds by asking if the student is about to cry.

“You want to go to the nurse? She can check it for you?” Samsel adds.

“Make babies! Who likes making babies? That feels good, doesn’t it? Procreate,” Samsel said at another point in the video. “You haven’t masturbated? Don’t answer that question.”

Other notable quotes include, “Would you like me to introduce [you] to a sophomore who’s tried killing himself three times because he has two parents and they’re both females?,” and, “I could put the wrath of God on your right now because that is what he is trying to do. You should run and scream cause the devil’s getting the hell out of my classroom.”

After students reported his behavior, Samsel told local news outlets that he didn’t do anything wrong and that the situation was actually “planned.”

The kids and I planned ALL this to SEND A MESSAGE about art, mental health, teenage suicide, how we treat our educators and one another. To who? Parents. And grandparents. And all of Wellsville,” he also wrote on Snapchat, according to The Star.

However, he later told investigators that he what at his “wit’s end” with “misbehaving students.” Then last month, he announced via Facebook that he had sought mental health treatment and was giving up his substitute teaching license, describing the situation as an “isolated episode of mania with psychotic features’‘ prompted by “extreme stress, pressure and agitation.”

Samsel’s Sentence

Samsel faced additional consequences in conjunction with his suspended sentence and year of probation. He was also banned from using social media, unless for political purposes. He cannot have contact with the students who reported him and must write apology letters to those involved. He must also follow mental health treatment recommendations and take any prescribed medications

Samsel, for his part, apologized in his court appearance via Zoom, saying he never “intended for anyone to get hurt.”

Some parents seem happy with the sentence, like Joshua Zeck, who told the Star, “From the beginning, all I wanted was for Mark to get some help.”

“I don’t want to see anybody go to jail. So if this does him so good and he’s doing better, I’m happy to hear that,” Zeck continued.

Others in the community told the paper that his sentencing was too lenient, including Mary Woods, whose niece had class with Samsel the day of the incident.

“I don’t think that’s enough. He laid his hands on a kid. … He traumatized a lot of these kids. I think it’s bullsh*t, to say so myself.”

As far as whether Samsel will keep his job in the state legislature, Kansas House Speaker Ron Ryckman said that’s up to voters to decide.

See what others are saying: (The Kansas City Star)(Insider)(NBC News)

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Alabama Man Dies After Being Turned Away From 43 Hospitals Overwhelmed by COVID Patients, Family Says

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Alabama currently has the second-highest COVID hospitalization average and fourth-lowest vaccination rate in the country.


Full ICUs Allegedly Delay Care for Emergent Cardiac Patient 

The family of an Alabama man who died of heart issues is calling on people to get vaccinated after he was turned away by 43 hospitals in three states while having a cardiac emergency because all of their Intensive Care Units were at maximum capacity with COVID patients.

The man, 73-year-old Ray DeMonia, was taken to Cullman Regional hospital in Alabama on Aug. 23. The next morning — around 12 hours after he was admitted — his daughter said her mother got a call saying that hospital workers were unable to find him a specialized cardiac ICU bed in the area. 

He was eventually transferred to a hospital in Mississippi about 200 miles away and died on Sept. 1, just three days before his birthday.

In DeMonia’s obituary, his family pleaded with people to get the vaccine.

“In honor of Ray, please get vaccinated if you have not, in an effort to free up resources for non COVID related emergencies,” they wrote. “He would not want any other family to go through what his did.”

Rising Hospitalizations

Officials and healthcare providers in Alabama have said DeMonia’s case is not a one-off incident. 

Jennifer Malone, a spokesperson for Cullman Regional, told The Washington Post that situations like this have been an “ongoing problem” reported by doctors at the hospital and others throughout the state.

“When patients are transported to other facilities to receive care that they need, that’s becoming increasingly more difficult because all hospitals are experiencing an increased lack of bed space,” she said.

On Friday, Scott Harris, the head of the Alabama Department of Public Health, said that the state’s spike in ICU patients has stabilized some. Still, he added there are not enough ICU beds for the number of patients that need intensive care, many of whom are unvaccinated.

Even with the spikes “stabilizing,” Alabama still has the second-highest COVID hospitalizations in the U.S., according to The Post tracker

The calls from DeMonia’s family for people to get vaccinated also come as Alabama struggles with the country’s fourth-lowest vaccination rate. Despite those figures, top officials in the state are doing little to address the issue.

Last week, after President Joe Biden rolled out a sweeping vaccine mandate for 100 million people and promised he would use his power to circumvent Republican leaders “undermining” relief efforts, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) told the president to “bring it on.”

Ivey then doubled down on her refusal to mandate vaccines in her state, where people are being refused emergency hospital care because so many unvaccinated people are in ICU beds.

“You bet I’m standing in the way. And if he thinks he’s going to move me out of the way, he’s got another thing coming,” she said, referring to the mandates as “outrageous” and “overreaching” policies that will “no doubt be challenged in the courts.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NBC News) (NPR)

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