The biggest pandemic news yesterday didn’t come from the White House or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or Pfizer, or China. It came from the National Football League, which issued a get-your-shot heard 'round the world.
The league’s decision came as President Biden has been imploring people to get vaccinated and his administration has been debating whether to make another public relations push behind mask wearing in the face of the delta variant.
“If a game is cancelled/postponed because a club cannot play due to a Covid spike among or resulting from its non-vaccinated players/staff, then the burden of the cancellation or delay will fall on the club experiencing the Covid infection," the NFL declared. "We will seek to minimize the burden on the opposing club or clubs. If a club cannot play due to a Covid spike in vaccinated individuals, we will attempt to minimize the competitive and economic burden on both participating teams."
What kind of “burden”? If a game can’t be rescheduled inside the 18-week season, the forfeiting team will be considered to have lost, the other team to have won, with corresponding impact on standings and playoff seeding.
Oh, and neither team’s players will get paid for the canceled game, NFL Network reporter Tom Pelissero, who posted the NFL memo on Twitter, underlined in his feed. (The Washington Post also obtained a copy, but as a Twitter addict I saw it from Tom first.)
The NFL, a global business that generates billions of dollars annually, has been doing pretty well when it comes to getting players, coaches, staff and others vaccinated.
“According to a person familiar with the situation, 78 percent of NFL players have received at least one vaccine dose, and 14 of the 32 teams have more than 85 percent of their players vaccinated. No team is below the 50 percent threshold, according to that person.”
With 53 players on each team’s active roster and another 12 on the practice squad, that’s not a large population — just 2,080. It’s also wealthier and has considerably more reliable, regular access to doctors than most of the U.S. public.
In the overall American population, 48.8 percent of people are fully vaccinated, and 56.4 percent have had at least one dose, according to The Washington Post vaccine tracker.
The league has its share of vaccine resisters.
Shortly after the NFL announcement, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins tweeted: “Never thought I would say this, But being put in a position to hurt my team because I don’t want to partake in the vaccine is making me question my future in the @nfl.” (He deleted the tweet.)
Later, Hopkins added: “My girlfriend brother in the military got the vaccine and had heart problems right after. When you stand for something they hate you.” (In a tiny number of cases, heart inflammation has followed vaccination.)
He deleted that too, but kept this:
Whether the NFL announcement will inspire other giant corporate interests — including other sports leagues — to adopt similar measures is unclear.
But the announcement comes as states and school districts from coast to coast are grappling with whether to require masks and vaccines, and coming to vastly different conclusions, often shaped by polarized American politics.
The Cleveland Metropolitan School District announced this week that students, staff, and visitors will have to wear masks for at least the first five weeks of school in the 2021-2022 academic year.
In Tennessee, meanwhile, Daniella Medina of the Nashville Tennessean reported last week:
“The Tennessee Health Department is making changes to its vaccination outreach, including barring minors from dissemination of information for all vaccines, amid pressure from Republican lawmakers.”
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, did some damage control yesterday, according to Phil Williams of NewsChannel 5 of Nashville. Lee declared "I want to say today and I want to continue to say that the number one tool that we have to manage COVID-19, including the delta variant, is the vaccine.”
Other Republicans, like Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, have fought to prevent even private businesses like cruise lines from requiring consumers to show proof of vaccination.
Inside the NFL, doubters have lots of “serious, thoughtful questions that deserve serious and thoughtful answers,” the medical director of the NFL Players Association, Thom Mayer, the NFLPA's chief medical adviser, recently told ESPN.
"I'll say what our players say: They're grown-a** men,” Mayer said. “You give them grown-a** facts and they'll make a grown-a** decision."
What’s happening now
Let the games begin. “After a one-year delay full of loss and uncertainty, Japan’s Emperor Naruhito finally declared the Tokyo Summer Olympics open [today]. The host nation and International Olympic Committee hope the Games demonstrate the perseverance and global unity the Olympic movement is meant to represent,” Ava Wallace reports.
Naomi Osaka lit up the Olympic cauldron. “The world’s No. 2 tennis player and one of Japan’s biggest celebrities had the honor of lighting the Olympic cauldron. Osaka, 23, did so wearing her hair in long red braids and held the torch high,” Wallace writes.
And almost 2,000 drones formed a globe over the Olympic stadium:
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Lunchtime reads from The Post
- “Trump’s PAC collected $75 million this year, but so far the group has not put money into pushing for the 2020 ballot reviews he touts,” by Josh Dawsey and Rosalind Helderman: “Trump’s political PAC raised about $75 million in the first half of this year as he trumpeted the false notion that the 2020 election was stolen from him, but the group has not devoted funds to help finance the ongoing ballot review in Arizona or to push for similar endeavors in other states, according to people familiar with the finances. Instead, the Save America leadership PAC — which has few limits on how it can spend its money — has paid for some of the former president’s travel, legal costs and staff, along with other expenses, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the group’s inner workings. The PAC has held onto much of its cash.”
- “A scandal-scarred Senate candidate wants Donald Trump’s endorsement. Other Republicans worry he’ll give it,” by Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey: “Former Missouri governor Eric Greitens keeps getting questions on the campaign trail about the state of his relationship with Trump. But the scandal-scarred Senate candidate, who is trying to run under the banner of Trump’s ‘America First’ movement, always finds a way to avoid a direct answer. ... The dodge glosses over one of the most dramatic behind-the-scenes battles for Trump’s favor taking place right now. The former president has hosted a steady stream of potential candidates, sitting senators and political kibitzers who have tried to keep him from endorsing Greitens, a devoted cheerleader who is trying to use Trump’s grass-roots strength to emerge from disastrous allegations of bound hands and coercive sex that forced his resignation as governor in 2018.”
- “Thousands of bullets have been fired in this D.C. neighborhood. Fear is part of everyday life,” by Peter Hermann and John D. Harden: “Late on July 16, a 6-year-old D.C. girl was fatally shot and her mother and four others were wounded in a burst of gunfire in the city. The next night, fans at Nationals Park rushed for cover and ducked under seats when they heard rapid pops of gunfire from just outside the ballpark that wounded three people and brought the game to a halt. In some places, the violence is nothing new. Each blast of gunfire strips away a sense of security, instilling fear even if no casualties are claimed... District authorities say just over 40 percent of the gunfire is concentrated on 151 blocks — or 2 percent. Two of them are on a one-mile stretch of Benning Road in Marshall Heights.”
… and beyond
- “Inside Trump’s intense search for a Cheney challenger,” by Politico’s Alex Isenstadt and Ally Mutnick: “Trump’s top political advisers have been holding quiet talks over the last several months with the primary challengers looking to take down his most prominent Republican nemesis: Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney. During phone calls and Zoom chats, the Trump advisers have pressed the candidates on their fundraising capabilities, their policy positions and the overall strength of their campaign organizations. The goal: to determine whether they have what it takes to unseat Cheney, the influential daughter of a former vice president ... The talks will escalate next week, when Trump meets with two challengers at his Bedminster, N.J., golf club: state Rep. Chuck Gray and attorney Darin Smith.”
- “Why everyone has the worst summer cold ever,” by the New York Times’s Tara Parker-Pope: “Months of pandemic restrictions aimed at Covid-19 had the unintended but welcome effect of stopping flu, cold and other viruses from spreading. But now that masks are off and social gatherings, hugs and handshakes are back, the run-of-the-mill viruses that cause drippy noses, stuffy heads, coughs and sneezes have also returned with a vengeance. ... While pandemic lockdowns protected many people from Covid-19, our immune systems missed the daily workout of being exposed to a multitude of microbes back when we commuted on subways, spent time at the office, gathered with friends and sent children to day care and school. Although your immune system is likely as strong as it always was, if it hasn’t been alerted to a microbial intruder in a while, it may take a bit longer to get revved up when challenged by a pathogen again, experts say.”
- “CIA director says he is escalating efforts to solve ‘Havana Syndrome’ mystery,” by NPR’s Becky Sullivan, Mary Louise Kelly and Greg Myre: “CIA Director William Burns says he has redoubled the agency's efforts to uncover the cause of Havana syndrome — the mysterious set of ailments that has afflicted more than 200 U.S. officials and family members around the world. That includes the assignment of a senior officer who once led the hunt for Osama bin Laden to lead the investigation and tripling the size of a medical team involved in the probe, Burns told NPR on Thursday in his first sit-down interview since being confirmed as the agency's chief in March.”
On the Hill
The Democrats’ divide on voting rights widens as Biden faces pressure.
- “A quiet divide between President Biden and the leaders of the voting rights movement burst into the open on Thursday, as 150 organizations urged him to use his political mettle to push for two expansive federal voting rights bills that would combat a Republican wave of balloting restrictions,” The Times’s Katie Rogers and Nick Corasaniti report. “In the letter, signed by civil rights groups including the Leadership Conference and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, activists argued that with the ‘ideal of bipartisan cooperation on voting rights’ nowhere to be found in a sharply divided Senate, Mr. Biden must ‘support the passage of these bills by whatever means necessary.’”
Democrats continue to admonish the FBI over handling of Kavanaugh complaints.
- “Several Democratic senators demanded more answers from the FBI about its handling of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s background investigation three years ago, when decades-old allegations of sexual assault were leveled against Trump’s nominee to the bench, bitterly dividing lawmakers over his suitability for the lifetime appointment," Eugene Scott reports.
- "Their demands follow the FBI’s acknowledgment that it had received thousands of tips after the allegations surfaced — claims Kavanaugh has vehemently denied — but relayed comparatively few to the Trump White House for further scrutiny.”
Democrats are rallying around House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as the GOP threatens a payback snub in the Jan. 6 probe.
- “Pelosi’s decision this week to sideline Reps. Jim Banks (Ind.) and Jim Jordan (Ohio) — both ardent defenders of former president Donald Trump — prompted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) to lash out at Pelosi and withdraw all five of his designees from the investigative committee,” Mike DeBonis, Jacqueline Alemany and Paul Kane report. “But Pelosi’s move won strong backing from House Democrats, many of whom remain disturbed and angry about the violent incursion of Trump supporters into the Capitol. The upheaval of congressional norms, several said Thursday, was outweighed by the risk of giving Republicans an official platform to distort, minimize and deflect a focused inquiry into the causes of the riot.”
A former Montgomery and Fairfax county police chief will take over the Capitol Police.
- “J. Thomas Manger, who spent 21 years as a police chief in the wealthy Washington suburbs of Montgomery and Fairfax counties, was named Thursday to take over the U.S. Capitol Police as it tries to regain its footing in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol,” Tom Jackman reports.
- “Manger was selected by three members of the Capitol Police Board — the sergeant-at-arms of the House and the Senate, and the architect of the Capitol — as well as top congressional leaders, who oversee the police department. He succeeds Chief Steven A. Sund, who resigned days after the insurrection amid heavy criticism of the department’s lack of preparation, and interim chief Yogananda D. Pittman, who was head of Capitol Police intelligence before Jan. 6.”
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) was arrested at a “Black Voters Matter” protest for voting rights.
- The arrest made Johnson “the second Democratic member of Congress in a week to be detained while demonstrating in support of federal voting legislation,” Amy B Wang reports.
- “Johnson had been attending a ‘Brothers Day of Action on Capitol Hill’ protest organized by the nonprofit group Black Voters Matter. Video footage from the event showed Johnson and others linking arms and lined up outside the Hart Senate Office Building, chanting ‘Hey, hey! Ho, ho! The filibuster has got to go!’ ”
Quote of the day
“Folks are supposed to have common sense. But it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the vaccinated folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down,” Republican Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said about her state’s rise in coronavirus cases and its low vaccination rate. “I’ve done all I know how to do. I can encourage you to do something but I can’t make you take care of yourself.”
The delta variant will drive a steep rise in U.S. covid-19 deaths, a new model shows.
- “That's according to new projections released Wednesday from the COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub, a consortium of researchers working in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help the agency track the course of the pandemic,” NPR’s Rob Stein and Selena Simmons-Duffin report. “It's a deflating prospect for parents looking ahead to the coming school year, employers planning to get people back to the workplace, and everyone hoping that the days of big national surges were over.”
- “ ‘What's going on in the country with the virus is matching our most pessimistic scenarios,’ says Justin Lessler, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina who helps run the modeling hub. ‘We might be seeing synergistic effects of people becoming less cautious in addition to the impacts of the delta variant.’”
- “In the most likely scenario, Lessler says, the U.S. reaches only 70% vaccination among eligible Americans, and the delta variant is 60% more transmissible. In that scenario, at the peak in mid-October, there would be around 60,000 cases and around 850 deaths each day, Lessler says.”
Italy said it will require proof of vaccination or a negative test for many social activities, including indoor dining and visiting museums.
- “The move follows a similar announcement made by the French government last week and comes as the debate in Western nations heats up over how far governments should — or can — go in circumscribing the life of the unvaccinated,” the Times’s Emma Bubola reports. “In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this week that his government planned to insist on proof of vaccination to enter nightclubs and similar venues by the end of September, but the idea was met with a swift political backlash and is not yet certain to go ahead.”
The delta variant outbreak popped the travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand.
- “New Zealand has suspended a travel bubble with Australia for two months as an outbreak of a hyper-transmissible variant of the novel coronavirus threatens the nation’s earlier success in containing the pandemic,” Rachel Pannett reports. “More than 200,000 people have flown between New Zealand and Australia since the quarantine-free travel corridor opened in April. But a delta variant outbreak that started in Sydney in mid-June has ‘materially changed the risk profile,’ New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters Friday. “
Hot on the left
Mississippi is asking the Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade in order to uphold the state’s restrictions on abortion access, Robert Barnes reports. “The state’s bold request is in a brief filed Thursday that seeks to persuade the court it should approve a law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, far earlier than now allowed. The court will hear arguments in the case this fall, and both sides in the divisive fight see it as a crucial moment in determining whether and how the court’s 6-to-3 conservative majority might constrain abortion rights.”
Hot on the right
Sen. Ron Johnson (R) said he may not be the best candidate for the 2022 midterms in what is expected to be a competitive Senate race in Wisconsin. "I want to make sure that this U.S. Senate seat is retained in Republican hands," Johnson told conservative talk show host Lisa Boothe. “You see what the media’s doing to me. I may not be the best candidate. I wouldn’t run if I don’t think I could win, if I don’t think I was the best person to be able to win.” Johnson also said he’s disappointed with his own accomplishments while in office. “I feel really bad that I’ve been here now probably 11 years and we’ve doubled the debt,” Johnson said. “Obamacare’s still in place, and we’ve doubled the debt. I don’t feel like my time here has been particularly successful.”
Per the Wisconsin State Journal, Republicans who potentially could run for Johnson’s seat are Rep. Mike Gallagher and former Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson.
Ledecky pushing the pace off the walls, visualized
In a sport in which hundredths of a second can determine the winner, a race can be won or lost every time a swimmer approaches the wall. A good flip turn — the somersault motion that begins the moment a swimmer takes her last stroke before her feet touch the wall — can take 1 to 1.3 seconds. Consider that a 1,500-meter race has 29 turns: That amounts to 29 to 35 seconds of race time. The 800 is 15 turns, which translates to 15 to 20 seconds spent on turns. Read more about how Katie Ledecky swims faster than the rest of the world
Today in Washington
Biden will participate in a campaign event for Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe at 7:45 p.m. At 8:45 p.m., Biden will travel to Wilmington, Del., where he will spend the weekend.
Peacock’s Olympic TV schedule is limited. It’s all part of NBC’s plan. “NBC has added its Peacock streaming service to its Olympic coverage this year, giving the network an opportunity to expand its offerings to viewers who have cut the cable cord,” Matt Bonesteel reports. “But don’t expect a wide variety of live sports. As The Post’s Tatum Hunter and Geoffrey A. Fowler wrote, ‘Think of Peacock as a distant, less-sophisticated cousin to NBC. Instead of just streaming NBC’s coverage, it will have its own shows and hosts.’ ...
“Peacock will offer only early-morning live coverage of gymnastics, track and field and Team USA men’s basketball. ... Offering a limited menu of the Olympics’ most popular sports is part of NBC’s plan to increase the subscriber and digital advertiser base for Peacock, which it rolled out last year. But to access the bulk of the network’s live Olympic coverage — including the gymnastics, track and field, and basketball competitions that don’t take place early in the morning on the U.S. East Coast — you’ll need either a digital antenna for your television or a cable subscription.”
Here's this weekend's events' schedule:
Cleveland's baseball team changed its name to “Guardians.”
And Stephen Colbert warned that the only thing spreading faster than the delta variant is coronavirus misinformation: