On Monday morning, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida was telling one of those money channels that the U.S. had to “open up” for business.
Sen. Scott knows a lot about business, having run a “health-care” company that paid $1.7-billion in penalties, while he personally escaped jail as the leader of the devious pack.
But there he was, a senator, urging American businesses to get back to work. At the very same time, Major League Baseball – as part of its patriotic duty to get back to business – was postponing two games scheduled for Monday because many members of the Miami Marlins, in the state Scott theoretically represents, had tested positive for Covid-19.
Getting back to business has its drawbacks, whether for endangered children and endangered teachers in schools being pressured to open, or ball players in their own little playpens.
Donald Trump, allegedly once the greatest baseball prospect in American prep-school history, has insisted the game be resumed as part of the economic re-opening. Then again, he felt the same thing about political rallies and nominating conventions. Poor schlub, he invited himself to throw out a first pitch in Yankee Stadium and then got disinvited. (Ever hear an empty stadium boo?)
Baseball is supposed to contribute to normalcy while a pandemic is going on, particularly in the presumably-red Sunbelt states being led into danger by clodhoppers like Abbott of Texas, Kemp of Georgia and DeSantis of Florida. (Where do they get these people?)
As of this typing, baseball was still planning to hold most games in its improvised season of 60 games. But ballplayers were starting to follow the new protocols, donning masks on the field, refraining from some bro hugs, and some were voicing their fears.
This puts these masked men ahead of many millions of Americans currently milling around unmasked at bars and beaches and back-yard parties, ignoring the warnings of scientists. It’s part of their constitutional rights, as Americans, to be independent knuckleheads.
This raises questions for me, hunkering in our cool cave at home, watching just about every pitch of the Mets'first four games.
How can I watch the runs, hits, errors, facial expressions and strategies in empty stadiums, while millions of people around the world are endangered by this pandemic?
We stay home as much as possible, we read, we watch filmed plays from London, we listen to the political yammerers on the tube, my wife makes great meals. And for the moment, I watch the Mets.
Every winter I wait for the season, and finally it is here, in its imperiled fashion, and I am watching Jeff McNeil’s fire and Jacob deGrom’s near-perfection and Pete Alonso’s power and Seth Lugo’s monk-like calm.
Am I doing something wrong? Am I encouraging baseball…and other businesses….to “open up?”
I took a random sample Monday night.
One fan, nameless, was at home in front of the tube, watching the Mets from Fenway Park, which was sadly not quivering with energy and history.
The game was not 15 minutes old when the Mets committed a blunder on the field. My phone pinged with a message from the aforementioned fan: “Not a very disciplined ball club.” So we pinged back and forth while the Mets held on for a 7-4 victory. For one more evening, we watched baseball, knowing it could be the last for a long time.
My sample was balanced by other pings from a good friend of mine, a former minor-league prospect who knows the game so well and shares my appreciation for the late-bloomer Jeff McNeil.
Except that my ball-player pal was not watching. He thinks baseball should not be open, should not be exposing players and those who serve them. He pinged:
“George, I refuse to watch this stupid circus! MLB has lost the little credibility they once had! The owners do not care about baseball’s image! They care only about taking in anti-trust-protected profits!”
So there you have it. One for. One against.
For the moment, I am watching the Mets.
What else I got to do?
Measuring Covid Deaths, by David Leonhardt. July 17, 2023. NYT online.
The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal….
After three horrific years, in which Covid has killed more than one million Americans and transformed parts of daily life, the virus has turned into an ordinary illness.
The progress stems mostly from three factors:
First, about three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot.
Second, more than three-quarters of Americans have been infected with Covid, providing natural immunity from future symptoms. (About 97 percent of adults fall into at least one of those first two categories.)
Third, post-infection treatments like Paxlovid, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, became widely available last year.
“Nearly every death is preventable,” Dr. Ashish Jha, who was until recently President Biden’s top Covid adviser, told me. “We are at a point where almost everybody who’s up to date on their vaccines and gets treated if they have Covid, they rarely end up in the hospital, they almost never die.”
That is also true for most high-risk people, Jha pointed out, including older adults — like his parents, who are in their 80s — and people whose immune systems are compromised. “Even for most — not all but most —immuno-compromised people, vaccines are actually still quite effective at preventing against serious illness,” he said. “There has been a lot of bad information out there that somehow if you’re immuno-compromised that vaccines don’t work.”
That excess deaths have fallen close to zero helps make this point: If Covid were still a dire threat to large numbers of people, that would show up in the data.
One point of confusion, I think, has been the way that many Americans — including we in the media — have talked about the immuno-compromised. They are a more diverse group than casual discussion often imagines.
Most immuno-compromised people are at little additional risk from Covid — even people with serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of many cancers. A much smaller group, such as people who have received kidney transplants or are undergoing active chemotherapy, face higher risks.
Covid’s toll, to be clear, has not fallen to zero. The C.D.C.’s main Covid webpage estimates that about 80 people per day have been dying from the virus in recent weeks, which is equal to about 1 percent of overall daily deaths.
The official number is probably an exaggeration because it includes some people who had virus when they died even though it was not the underlying cause of death. Other C.D.C. data suggests that almost one-third of official recent Covid deaths have fallen into this category. A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases came to similar conclusions.
Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine in Massachusetts, told me that “age is clearly the most substantial risk factor.” Covid’s victims are both older and disproportionately unvaccinated. Given the politics of vaccination, the recent victims are also disproportionately
Republican and white.
Each of these deaths is a tragedy. The deaths that were preventable — because somebody had not received available vaccines and treatments — seem particularly tragic. (Here’s a Times guide to help you think about when to get your next booster shot.)
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.