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US women’s gymnastics team alternate tests positive for COVID-19

Another alternate on the team was placed into isolation because of contact tracing, but Simone Biles and other favorites to win team gold weren’t affected.

WASHINGTON — An alternate on the United States women’s gymnastics team has tested positive for COVID-19 in an Olympic training camp in Japan.

Olympic champion Simone Biles was not affected, nor were any of the other favorites to win the team gold, but another alternate was placed into isolation because of contact tracing, USA Gymnastics said Monday.

“One of the replacement athletes for the women’s artistic gymnastics team received a positive COVID test on Sunday, July 18. After reviewing the implemented COVID protocols with members of the delegation, the local government determined that the affected replacement athlete and one other replacement athlete would be subject to additional quarantine restrictions,” the USAG statement said. “Accordingly, on Monday, the Olympic athletes moved to separate lodging accommodations and a separate training facility, as originally planned, and will continue their preparation for the Games. The entire delegation continues to be vigilant and will maintain strict protocols while they are in Tokyo.”

The positive test was the latest in a growing line of daily reports of athletes and others testing positive at the pandemic-delayed Olympics. The unnamed gymnast was the first American.

“The health and safety of our athletes, coaches and staff is our top priority. We can confirm that an alternate on the women’s artistic gymnastics team tested positive for COVID-19,” the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee said in a statement. “In alignment with local rules and protocols, the athlete has been transferred to a hotel to quarantine. Out of respect for the individual’s privacy, we cannot provide more information at this time.”

The four alternates — Leanne Wong, Kayla DiCello, Emma Malabuyo and Kara Eaker — traveled to Japan with the six-woman U.S. delegation of Biles, Jordan Chiles, Grace McCallum, Sunisa Lee, MyKayla Skinner and Jade Carey.

The alternates are rooming and training together. While they have been traveling to training along with the actual team, they have been split into groups, with the team working on one apparatus while the alternates work on another.

The U.S. women’s team dealt with what USA Gymnastics called a “false positive” over the weekend for an unidentified athlete but the ensuing test results for the athlete were negative, according to the organization.

Biles, who is also the world champion, and the rest of the regular team have been vaccinated.

The Games are set to open on Friday with a state of emergency in force in Tokyo, which means almost all venues will be without any fans as new cases rise in the capital. The women’s gymnastic team begins competing on Sunday.

The U.S. officials said the test took place when the team was training just outside Tokyo in Inzai City. Team members arrived last week for the camp to great fanfare at Narita airport.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government on Monday reported 727 new cases in the capital. It is the 30th straight day that cases were higher than the previous week. The cases last Monday were 502.

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This post originally posted here CBS8 – Sports

San Diego boxer ready as alternate when the call comes for Olympic games

At 20 years old, Jonathan Mansour is one of the youngest members of the USA Boxing team and is currently the #2-ranked amateur featherweight in the country.

EL CAJON, Calif. — A fighter from El Cajon is turning the Chaldean community on to a sport they typically don’t pay much attention to.

Jonathan Mansour, who at 20 years old is one of the youngest members of the USA Boxing team.  Mansour’s nickname is “Magic” and he often switches between southpaw and orthodox stances to throw off his opponent.

I got the nickname from my teammate, Jill. She said “every time you throw punches it’s like you disappear, they can’t see you no more,” Mansour said.

When asked if the nickname is well deserved, coach Kearney said, “Absolutely. He does things that are unconventional, it’s like an illusion.”

One thing you notice when you meet Jonathan “Magic” Mansour is his punch. Fans can see his punch speed along with his 75K+ followers through his training videos on his Instagram page @jonny_mansour. He’s also tall for a featherweight and uses his range to outbox his opponent.

He is currently the #2-ranked amateur featherweight in the country.  

Mansour trains at the Bomber Squad Boxing Academy in El Cajon.

His coach, Berlin Kearney said that what makes him a good fighter is that he listens. “He’s strong-headed in a good way.  Everything we tell him, he takes in and applies it,” Kearney said.

When asked what brings him back, day after day to train, Mansour said, “Honestly, the sport has truly shown me who I am. Working hard every single day, teaching me discipline, teaching me dedication.”

He has won multiple national tournaments, including Golden Gloves, and has won an international gold in Ireland.

Mansour still always remembers where he came from.  

“I grew up in a Chaldean community, there aren’t a lot of boxers…actually there are no boxers…it’s just me and my cousin, Julius. We are the only ones and we are bringing in new life and culture to our Chaldean community.”

His dad wasn’t always on board with Jonathan boxing. But he came around.

“I can’t see my son get hit so I was really worried about him. I tried to stop him a couple of times,” Jonathan’s dad said.

Dad feels differently now.

“Every Chaldean is proud of him. Our country, Iran, is proud of him. Everybody is happy with what he is doing,” he added.

Last year Mansour had earned the spot of first alternate for the Tokyo Olympics. But USA Boxing recently changed Olympic qualifying protocols and is now sending just two male fighters to the games, dashing Mansour’s Olympic dreams. For now.

“Honestly, everything happens for a reason. I’m going to continue to build my experience until 2024,” Mansour said.

Editors update: Since this story initially aired, USA Boxing decided to send four professionals to the 2021 Tokyo games. It will mark the first time ever that professional boxers have represented the USA at the Olympic games.

WATCH RELATED: San Diego’s ‘Lady Tyson’ becomes USA Boxing Champion 

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This post originally posted here CBS8 – Sports

Could the U.S. Have Saved More Lives? 5 Alternate Scenarios for the Vaccine Rollout

There is much to celebrate about America’s vaccine rollout.

The government bet big on vaccines, committing to buying millions of doses even before a vaccine was approved. Now, about 44 percent of the United States population has been fully vaccinated, far more than many other countries. While other nations struggle to obtain vaccines needed to stop outbreaks, the United States has a surplus, and is experiencing the fewest cases, hospitalizations and deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

Yet for all of the American successes, 100,000 people have died from the virus since February, after vaccine distribution was well underway. Many more have been infected and could face long-term medical problems.

As the nation reopens and calls emerge to investigate lessons learned in the pandemic, The New York Times asked more than a dozen public health experts, economists and bioethicists to reflect on the vaccine rollout. Was the American approach as effective as it could have been? What, if anything, could have been done differently?

The Trump and Biden administrations debated numerous options, including ideas raised by the experts. There is by no means universal agreement about what should have been done, and no way of knowing with certainty whether different vaccination tactics would have resulted in fewer deaths.

Still, with the benefit of hindsight, experts pointed to several areas where the United States might have taken another approach. Here are five alternate scenarios:

By now, most people are familiar with the Pfizer and Moderna timelines: An initial dose of the vaccine, followed by a second shot three to four weeks later.

Some experts suggest that the United States could have delayed second doses of the vaccine for several weeks and instead given out first shots more widely to high risk people, in order to give some protection to more people. One dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine offers 80 percent protection after two weeks, compared with 90 percent from two doses, according to a federal report on efficacy under real world conditions. (The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was authorized later, comes in a single shot.)

“We spent a lot of February providing a lot of second shots to people who had gotten their first shot in January, when there were a ton of high risk people getting infected and dying, for whom a single shot would have made a big difference,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.

The delayed shot approach, which had not been rigorously tested, particularly over time and against virus variants, was hotly debated. Federal officials ultimately deemed it too risky, and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert, said he was opposed.

The approach, though experimental, was used in Britain, where officials delayed second shots by up to 12 weeks. (Britain also organized its rollout largely by age, starting with the oldest most likely to die from the virus and continuing in descending order.)

Deaths in Britain have plummeted — the country recently recorded a day with zero new deaths — and a recent study reported an intriguing finding: People who received the second shot 12 weeks later actually produced more antibodies than those who received their second shot after three weeks.

Still, Britain has seen a rise in cases in recent weeks and is now accelerating second doses in order to combat an outbreak of the Delta variant, which is more contagious and more likely to infect people who have had only one shot.

Some people have argued that the nation should have prioritized people who were most likely to spread the virus, rather than those most vulnerable to dying from it. (Indonesia tried vaccinating younger people first.) But the experts we spoke with generally said that the United States was wise to prioritize older people, who have died from Covid at much higher rates.

“If our goal is to save the most lives, we need to think about who is most likely to die,” said Nancy Jecker, a professor of bioethics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. “Age is a pretty reliable predictor.”

Indeed, since vaccinations began, deaths among people 75 and older have fallen substantially, with particular progress in nursing homes.

While doses were initially in short supply and many seniors faced problems accessing the vaccine, some experts said opening shots to a slightly wider group could have brought equity, arguing that higher age cutoffs benefited white Americans, who have a longer life expectancy than their Black peers. When states opened up eligibility to the general population, some began with a threshold of 75 or 80, while many went with a cutoff of 65 and older.

“Even at the beginning, we should have started at 60 and above, or 65 and above at least,” said Saad Omer, director of the Yale Institute for Global Health.

In recent months, people aged 50 to 64 have made up a growing share of Covid deaths, underscoring the remaining risk to this slightly younger group when unvaccinated.

Ruth Faden, founder of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, also favored lowering the age limit to protect older people in communities of color or with lower incomes.

“It is not only how many lives,” she said, “but whose lives.”

And, according to a U.S. census survey released last month, among Americans open to being vaccinated, the higher a person’s household income, the more likely the person was to have received a shot. Of 30 million “willing but not yet vaccinated’’ people, more than 80 percent did not have a college degree, according to an analysis of the census data.

To address socioeconomic equity, the C.D.C. recommended prioritizing what it called “frontline essential workers,” including grocery and transit workers. But that proved too complicated for many states, and some experts said the C.D.C. should have pushed for a more direct approach, such as targeting disadvantaged areas, a tactic that was tried in a limited number of places.

“We could have been more intentional about planning to avoid those disparities,” said Dr. Jewel Mullen, associate dean for health equity at Dell Medical School. “The maps we had last spring and summer showed where people were dying and that could have been good enough to say, ‘We know where we need to go with vaccines.’”

One data analysis by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin suggests that it would have been possible to save lives simply by targeting vaccines early on to the ZIP codes hardest-hit by Covid-19. In Austin, as in many places, those same ZIP codes are also the poorest. Such a strategy might not have been politically tenable, but Lauren Ancel Meyers, the epidemic modeler who conducted the study, said it likely would have prevented some hospitalizations and deaths across the whole city.

After swiftly passing more than $ 2 trillion in three separate bills in March 2020, Congress haggled for months over the details of more legislation to address the pandemic and needs across the country. A final package, including billions of dollars for vaccine distribution, did not become law until just after Christmas — after the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines had already been authorized for emergency use.

“Had that money come earlier, yes, health departments could have scaled up operations earlier and that could have made a difference,” said Dr. Adam Gaffney, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and a pulmonary specialist.

At the same time, the early rollout was chaotic at a critical moment, when more than 2,000 people were dying every day.

Logistical bottlenecks meant that available shots were not immediately delivered into people’s arms, said Dr. Nathaniel Hupert, a physician and public health researcher at Weill Cornell Medicine. Such delays were tantamount to losing the benefits of compound interest in your savings account, he said.

When a polio vaccine became available in the United States in the 1950s, the March of Dimes, an organization that had been affiliated with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, made a major advertising push, with posters featuring young children who were most at risk of being infected, recalled René Najera, editor of the History of Vaccines project at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. To boost public interest in the vaccine, Elvis Presley got vaccinated backstage at “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

“It was seen as a patriotic thing,” Dr. Najera said.

Today, the government has planned public education efforts, but the issue has remained fragmented and divisive.

Former President Donald J. Trump, whose administration had arguably its biggest success of the pandemic in quickly producing vaccines, did not use his political stardom to convince skeptical members of his base. He got vaccinated in private before leaving the White House, and today, Republicans remain less likely than Democrats to get vaccinated.

The Biden administration has been vocal in its support for vaccines, but has also been unable to overcome hesitancy on the part of many Americans, including some who are skeptical of government authority, and others who are suspicious of a medical establishment because of its record of racial inequity. The country appears likely to fall just short of President Biden’s goal of having 70 percent of adults at least partly vaccinated by July 4.

Debra Furr-Holden, associate dean for public health integration at Michigan State University, attributed at least some of the resistance to communications failures, starting with the branding of Operation Warp Speed, the federal effort to develop a coronavirus vaccine quickly. “When people heard ‘warp speed,’ you know what they heard? Corner cutting, skipped steps, missed steps, quick and dirty,” she said.

She said the United States should have launched a mass literacy campaign on vaccines long before they were produced and made it far easier to get vaccinated once shots were available. “We should be vaccinating people on their front doorsteps,” she said.

Basic information about vaccine delivery, like the fact that the federal government was footing the bill, was also often in short supply, said Dr. Rebecca Weintraub, a vaccinator and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School.

“People would be constantly coming up bringing piles of identification and cash,” Dr. Weintraub said. “We should have had massive billboards from the beginning: ‘THE VACCINE IS FREE, YOU DON’T NEED AN I.D.’’’

And then there is the cool factor. Not everyone will be convinced by health facts and testimony from experts like Dr. Fauci, said Stacy Wood, a marketing professor at North Carolina State University, who has examined how to market to people who are disinterested, but not opposed, to the vaccine.

“Instead of top experts, you might give them celebrities,” she said — and a variety of celebrities at that. “Even Elvis Presley didn’t convince everyone.”

Emily Cochrane, Danielle Ivory Benjamin Mueller and Sheryl Gay Stolberg contributed reporting.

Author: Sarah Mervosh and Amy Harmon
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News