It’s quiet. Almost too quiet.
As we approach the end of the second leg of Mississippi’s sports year, the winter season, the most startling thing is perhaps the best thing — how normal everything feels.
The COVID-19 pandemic has not gone away. Games, even entire postseason tournaments like the MAIS District 3-4A basketball tournament that St. Aloysius and Central Hinds Academy were scheduled to play in this coming week, are being canceled. Fans are still wearing masks to games and crowds are a fraction of what they might normally be.
But, despite all of that, we’ve made it through football season, and soccer and basketball season will conclude in the next few weeks. Baseball and softball teams, whose seasons were cruelly cut short in 2020, are back at practice preparing for the 2021 campaign.
The sports calendar often provides the background noise of life. We know it’s August because of chatter about the upcoming football season. The state high school basketball tournament and Run Thru History are signs that spring is around the corner. By April, we’re soaking up the sun and warm evening air watching baseball and softball.
All of that was disrupted last year, to the point we wondered if things would ever get back to normal. In many places, it hasn’t. A number of states have yet to give the all-clear for high school and youth sports to resume, while others just recently did so. Some have taken a start-and-stop approach as case counts rise and fall.
Here in Mississippi, we’ve been blessed. By late summer most of the sanctioning bodies in the state had decided to press on with the upcoming season and deal with problems as they arose. Our local and state governments and school districts have put smart guidelines in place without reflexively shutting everything down.
There have been and still will be plenty of bumps in the road, but we have persevered and found solutions. While other states lived in fear, we simply lived. A virus doesn’t care about politics or defiant stands of character — virus gonna virus, as one pundit put it — but those small moments mean a lot to us. They remind us of what was and what can be again.
After the crazy events of the past 11 months, and even where we were in the pandemic six months ago, it’s important to stop and take a look around at where we are right now. When you visit Sports Force Parks and see a field full of children playing soccer, and another with a crowd watching a baseball game, or see a picture from a basketball game with fans in the background, soak in the normalcy. Appreciate it. Savor it.
It’s not something you’ll find just anywhere. And it’s something that, not that long ago, we thought we might not see again.
Ernest Bowker is the sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at email@example.com
WUHAN — A World Health Organization-led team of experts investigating the origins of Covid-19 visited Huanan market on Sunday, the wholesale seafood centre in the central Chinese city of Wuhan where the new coronavirus was initially detected.
The team of experts arrived at Huanan on Sunday afternoon amid a heavy security presence, with additional barricades set up outside a high blue fence surrounding the market.
The WHO experts did not respond to questions thrown at them by reporters gathered at the entrance as their convoy drove into the market. The barricades came down as soon as they had entered.
Public access to the market has been severely restricted since it was shut at the beginning of last year. Before its closure, it was a bustling market comprising hundreds of stalls divided into sections for meat, seafood and vegetables.
Some Chinese diplomats and state media have said they believe the market is not the origin, and have thrown support behind theories that the virus potentially originated in another country.
Experts say the Huanan market still plays a role in tracing the origins of the virus, since the first cluster of cases was identified there.
Download the NBC News app for breaking news and politics
Following a two-week quarantine in the city that ended on Thursday, the WHO team is expected to visit laboratories, markets and hospitals in Wuhan.
No exact itinerary has not been announced, but the WHO has said the team plans to visit Huanan market and the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The WHO-led probe in Wuhan has been plagued by delays, concern over access and bickering between China and the United States, which accused China of hiding the extent of the initial outbreak and criticised the terms of the visit, under which Chinese experts conducted the first phase of research.
The team had been set to arrive in Wuhan earlier in January, and China’s delay of their visit drew rare public criticism from the head of the WHO, which former U.S. President Donald Trump accused of being “China-centric.”
The global rollout of coronavirus vaccines was never going to be easy. But it quickly descended into frustration at home and nationalistic acrimony abroad as countries around the world deal with a maelstrom of logistical and political challenges.
Europe has descended into its own ugly fight over supplies. And there is little sign that the poorest countries in the world will get access anytime soon, perhaps not until 2023.
Some in Africa, South America and Asia have turned to China and Russia, which are using vaccine diplomacy to boost their influence in those parts of the world, some experts say.
In the U.S., “the rollout is slow and awkward and very frustrating for our population,” said Dr. Tom Kenyon, a former director of the CDC’s Center for Global Health.
Washington should be best placed to immunize its citizens, having ordered 1.2 billion doses while working hand-in-glove with pharmaceutical giants. Yet the U.S. lags behind Israel, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and Bahrain in shots delivered per capita.
Its issues are broadly twofold: manufacturing and distribution.
As in Europe, American supply has been throttled as drugmakers struggle to keep up with clamoring demand, sometimes overpromising before having to scale back orders.
“They probably did not do a very good job at communicating correctly, managing expectations and being transparent,” said Maria Elena Bottazzi, associate dean at the National School of Tropical Medicine, part of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
But what makes the U.S. especially troubled, according to experts, is that its health care system is not centralized, and the administration of President Donald Trump failed to build a proper national vaccine rollout plan to fill the void.
Having inherited what some experts describe as one of the best pandemic preparedness plans in the world, Trump proceeded to fire his top biosecurity adviser, allowed his global health unit to be disbanded, and downplayed the coronavirus during the crucial early weeks of the outbreak last year.
The result today is a chaotic scramble when it comes to vaccines, so this criticism goes, where states, counties and hospitals have been left to wing it on their own.
Download the NBC News app for the latest news on the coronavirus
“We have a very divided approach,” said Kenyon, who is now chief health officer at Project HOPE, an international global health and humanitarian organization. “We actually have states competing with each other to get the vaccine. That’s not optimal in any sense.”
These concerns should be seen in context, however. Under Trump’s watch, vaccines arrived quicker and were more effective than many had expected. And the encouraging data continues to arrive.
This week President Joe Biden announced measures to revamp the federal rollout strategy. Time will tell whether this will turn things around.
“When it comes to coordination during a public health emergency, you see where our system has fallen apart,” said Justin Ortiz, an associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, referring to the Trump administration’s record. “The idea that the previous federal government can wash their hands of this and rely on every state to create their own systems is a dereliction of duty.”
In Europe the situation is equally fraught.
A morass of bureaucratic infighting appears to have stymied the European Union rollout, which has been glacially slow and dysfunctional. Doctors in Madrid and Paris have had to pause inoculations because stocks have run close to dry.
Amid all that, the E.U. and AstraZeneca are at loggerheads after the British-Swedish pharma giant said it would have to scale back deliveries because of a manufacturing issue. The E.U. has insisted that the drugmaker keep its word.
In a drastic step, the E.U. is now seeking to block exports of any vaccine from companies that have not fulfilled Europe’s order first. E.U officials have also suggested that U.K.-bound vaccines be redirected to make up the shortfall on the continent.
A wrangle over logistics now risks metastasizing into a full-blown diplomatic crisis.
“We reject the logic of first-come, first-served,” E.U. Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said at a news conference Wednesday. “That may work in a butcher’s shop but not in contracts and not in our advanced purchase agreements.”
Even in the U.K., there are concerns over its own ostensibly successful rollout, namely its decision to allow up to 12 weeks between first and second doses.
The decision was made while the country was in the teeth of the world’s deadliest Covid-19 outbreak. Staunchly defended by the government’s expert advisers, the delay is far longer than drugmakers recommend, dividing the scientific community.
But nowhere does the picture look worse than in the developing world.
For all the drama in the West, the delays will be measured in weeks and months. But Africa, parts of South Africa and Central Asia will most likely not see widespread vaccine coverage until 2023, according to a paper this week by the Economist Intelligence Unit, a research group in London.
As well as trying to get his own house in order, Biden has joined a World Health Organization-led program called COVAX, which has raised $2 billion to buy vaccines for poor countries.
Seeing the U.S. engage with an altruistic effort shunned by Trump has been welcomed by public health experts. But in reality what COVAX needs is not just more money and kind words, but doses in hand and the ability to distribute them.
“The American funds are welcome, but COVAX’s issues go beyond money,” Mukesh Kapila, who was an adviser to the WHO’s previous director-general, said.
1920 — Joe Malone of the Quebec Bulldogs scores an NHL record seven goals in a 10-6 victory over the Toronto St. Patricks.
1941 — Joe Louis knocks out Red Burman in the fifth round at Madison Square Garden to retain the world heavyweight title.
1950 — High school pitcher Paul Pettit signs with the Pirates for a record $100,000. To do so, Pittsburgh has to purchase his contract from a film producer who had signed Pettit to an exclusive contract as an athlete/actor.
1988 — The Washington Redskins score 35 points in the second quarter to overcome a 10-0 deficit and beat the Denver Broncos, 42-10, in the Super Bowl. MVP Doug Williams passes for four touchdowns and a record 340 yards. Timmy Smith rushes for a record 204 yards.
1991 — Michael Adams of the Denver Nuggets scores a career-high 45 points, hands out 12 assists and grabs 11 rebounds in a 123-119 win over New Jersey. The 5-foot-11 guard becomes the shortest player in the NBA to get a triple-double.
1993 — The Dallas Cowboys win the Super Bowl, beating Buffalo, 52-17, and giving the Bills their third straight loss in the title game, a league record.
1998 — Martina Hingis, 17, becomes the youngest player in the Open era to defend a Grand Slam title, capturing her second Australian Open with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Conchita Martinez.
1999 — John Elway gets his second straight Super Bowl ring, weaving his magic for the final time during the Denver Broncos’ 34-19 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
2004 — Justine Henin-Hardenne wins her third Grand Slam title and extends her dominance in major finals against countrywoman Kim Clijsters with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win in the Australian Open women’s title match.
2006 — Kobe Bryant scores 40 points in Los Angeles’ 130-97 win over New York. The NBA’s leading scorer averages 43.4 points in 13 games in January, joining Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history to average 40 or more points in a month more than once. Bryant also averaged 40.6 points in February 2003.
2009 — Serena Williams routs Dinara Safina, 6-0, 6-3, to win the Australian Open — her 10th Grand Slam title — and return to the No. 1 ranking. It’s the fourth Australian Open championship for Williams.
2009 — Bruce Smith and Rod Woodson are elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility. Senior nominee Bob Hayes and Randall McDaniel, Derrick Thomas and Buffalo owner Ralph Wilson also are elected.
2013 — Hannah Kearney, Heather McPhie and Eliza Outtrim complete an American sweep at a freestyle World Cup moguls event at Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah. It is only the second sweep by U.S. women, with the other occurring Jan. 21, 2010, in Lake Placid, N.Y. Kearney won gold in 2010 as well, and McPhie took bronze behind Shannon Bahrke.
2015 — Serena Williams wins her 19th Grand Slam title and extendeds her decade-long domination of Maria Sharapova with a commanding 6-3, 7-6 (5) win.
2015 — Teen star Lydia Ko becomes the youngest golfer of either gender to reach No. 1 in the world ranking. The 17-year-old shares a second-place finish at the LPGA Tour’s season opener, where she finishes a shot behind Na Yeon Choi in the Coates Golf Championship.
2016 — Novak Djokovic maintains his perfect streak in six Australian Open finals with a 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 (3) victory that consigns Andy Murray to a fifth defeat in championship deciders at Melbourne Park. Djokovic equals Roy Emerson’s long-standing record of six Australian Open titles.
Sports | U.S./World Sports
There have been over 430,000 deaths from Covid-19 in the US, and that includes many younger men and women whose partners have been left suddenly widowed. Alone and with young families to raise, they set up a Facebook support group. Two members spoke with BBC OS radio.
The priority for people across the EU is protecting themselves and their families. They were promised a vaccine action-plan they’re not – or not yet – getting. Which, in turn, is having an impact on domestic politics. Take the Netherlands or Germany, for example, as they head towards parliamentary elections.
The chief editor of a Russian website specialising in human rights, Sergei Smirnov, was also arrested outside his home on Saturday. News of his detention, apparently over allegations he participated in last week’s protests, has been condemned by other journalists.
Before the clinic ran out of oxygen, Maria Auxiliadora da Cruz had been showing encouraging signs of progress against Covid-19. On 14 January, her oxygen levels had been above the normal level of 95% but, within hours of being deprived of that vital resource, her stats plummeted to 35%.
The mayor has a plan. Cutting off the lifeblood of cannabis tourism, she believes, will deter that type of visitor and reduce the kind of conduct often associated with them. Most of the Netherlands already requires visitors to coffee shops to show proof of residence, but the rule is not enforced in the capital.