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American football match. Stock photo from Pixabay

US football team experiencing ‘highest spike’ of Covid-19 despite most being vaccinated

With the US state of Georgia set to host its first home game at Sanford Stadium on Saturday, football coach Kirby Smart said three or four of his players were down with Covid-19. Some 90 percent of the players have been vaccinated.

Published: September 7, 2021, 3:32 pm

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    These reports of the vaccinated falling ill have multiplied. “I’ll be honest with you, I’m as concerned as I’ve ever been, because we have three or four guys out with Covid and we have a couple staff members that have been out with Covid here recently,” Smart said. It became clear from Smart’s comments that he had expected another outcome from having his team vaccinated: Healthy players.

    “For us, we’re at our highest spike. And people are talking about vaccinations, well these are people that are vaccinated. We’re talking about breakthroughs, and so that concerns one – not only for the players on your team that are unvaccinated, that are playing and not playing, because we want everybody to be safe. But it concerns me for the players that are vaccinated that we could lose them.”

    Last week, the Georgia team’s sports medicine director, Ron Courson, was diagnosed with Covid-19. He did not travel with the team to Saturday’s match.

    “Ron’s doing good, he’s had a tough run,” Smart said. “Ron’s the hardest worker I’ve ever met in my life, and he’s never not been at this building on any day. Never not been here two days in a row, including spring break and off time, and it’s killing him, I think, to not be here. His health seems good and, hopefully, he’ll be back.”

    Last month, according to Smart, more than 90 percent of Georgia’s players, coaches and other staff members were vaccinated for Covid-19, but it has not helped to prevent players from falling ill. “This is the highest we’ve been since fall camp right now,” Smart said. “I think there’s this relief that you guys feel like everything’s back to normal, well it’s really just not for us right now.”

    The coach did not name the infected players during a teleconference with reporters on Monday and it is unknown whether they will be available to play next Saturday.

    Georgia does not require football fans to show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test to attend games at Sanford Stadium this season. The capacity of the stadium is almost 100 000.

    As of September 6, King County in Washington state however requires that everyone ages 5 and older, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in indoor public settings like grocery, retail, theaters, and entertainment establishments, and at outdoor events with 500 or more people. Masks are also recommended for everyone in crowded outdoor settings, which includes spectators at the Seahawks football team’s next match.

    “Masking in high-risk settings helps to protect everyone, including those that currently aren’t able to be protected by the vaccine such as children under twelve, and those who are immune suppressed. Some vaccinated people may choose to wear a mask if they are at increased risk for severe infection, have an underlying health condition, or are in close contact with someone at increased risk. Some people also wear masks to protect themselves from other respiratory illnesses or allergens,” the county said.

    Washington governor Jay Inslee announced the return of the statewide mask mandate regardless of vaccination status, starting from August 23. This is actually a tacit acknowledgement that vaccines have failed. As the NFL regular season approaches, the Seahawks as well as several other teams have announced updated plans not only for the obligatory masks, but for proof of vaccination to enter.

    But with such requirements in place, no one might turn up to watch any professional American football games. The Saints team from New Orleans requires fans to be vaccinated or provide a negative PCR test. This has resulted in ticket prices imploding. According to US well-known sports business analyst Darren Rovell, tickets on the secondary market were selling for less than $1 before fees.

    Currently there is one state in which being vaccinated to participate in public life is banned: Montana. In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis’ bill to “ban vaccine passports” still allows businesses to discriminate against the unvaccinated and actually includes a provision to detain people and forcefully vaccinate them against their will.

    But in Montana, under a new law passed earlier this year, requiring vaccines as a condition for employment is deemed a violation of the state’s human rights laws and correctly labeled as “discrimination”.

    Montana is the only state in the US to legally prevent private employers from discriminating, Hemi Tewarson, executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy, told the Associated Press. The law was signed by Governor Greg Gianforte in May.

    In the meantime, the Covid boogeyman may be losing its power to sow fear. For a recent music event in Seattle, no one bothered showing up with a mask or proof of vaccination.

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