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Douglas County News | National News | Statewide News | 06/30/21

Editorial: Break from the Wolfpack and be sure you are vaccinated

Omaha World Herald Editorial

Just as the Wolfpack missed its shot at the CWS finals after a stirring postseason run, people who refuse vaccination run the risk missing out on things they would like — including the rest of life itself.

Nearly all U.S. coronavirus deaths now are among the unvaccinated — only about 150 of the more than 18,000 COVID-19 deaths in May were among fully vaccinated people.

This is clear evidence that available vaccines are extremely effective in fighting a disease that has killed more than 600,000 Americans. It also is data — neutral numbers that have not a thing to do with politics.

NC State coach Elliott Avent was confused about that and other things Friday and Saturday as half his team was barred from a game against Vanderbilt and then was disqualified from further play by the NCAA.

His players, he said, “didn’t know what was going on; I didn’t know what was going on, so I couldn’t really tell them.”

The protocols, though, were clear going in, and not even as nuanced at the infield fly rule. The NCAA said before the CWS that unvaccinated individuals would be tested for COVID every other day, and it reserved the right to test vaccinated people in the case of high spread within the community. Positive tests among unvaccinated NC State players triggered broader testing, none of which would have occurred had the players been vaccinated.

After the loss to Vanderbilt, Avent added, “If you want to talk baseball, we can talk baseball. If you want to talk politics or stuff like that, you can go talk to my head of sports medicine.”

We can talk about a lot here before we get to politics. We can talk about public health, leadership and social responsibility, for example.

The mutating SARS-CoV-2 virus doesn’t care about your politics or whether you believe in its danger or trust vaccines.

If we must look at it through a political lens, even Donald Trump, our COVID minimizer in chief who became gravely ill from the disease, and his family have been vaccinated. Trump’s plan to beat the virus was Operation Warp Speed, his all-in push to rapidly develop vaccines.

And today we have effective vaccines, but warped thinking is leading millions of Americans to refuse them, putting themselves and others at risk.

The NCAA decided it could not require athletes to be immunized — but also decided that the CWS didn’t need to operate in a “bubble” as other recent tournaments had. It did not attempt to police player interaction with other teams, fans and Omahans off the field.

Dr. James Lawler, an executive director with the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Global Center for Health Security, told The World-Herald that unvaccinated Omahans and unvaccinated visitors will pay a price for that.

“We will clearly see a bump in cases because of the World Series,” he said.

He added: “A bubble would have been a more effective strategy until you had 100% vaccination.”

Reports are that some CWS teams — including Texas — were fully vaccinated. It’s unclear whether the school required that or players got shots voluntarily, but it was a way to ensure that the Longhorns wouldn’t lose their championship hopes off the field.

At NC State, Avent said he didn’t want to “indoctrinate” players, and Athletic Director Boo Corrigan told The World-Herald by email, “We respect their rights to make personal health care decisions.”

So it is that the truly spectacular, celebratory return of the CWS in 2021 will unnecessarily carry a footnote because of decisions by the NCAA and NC State.

The players and their fans, some of whom no doubt spent a few thousand dollars to be here, have paid the price. We don’t yet know the health cost to unvaccinated fans who mingled and shouted in close quarters indoors and out.

We do know that Missouri, which has low vaccination rates and has welcomed tourists back to the Ozarks, now leads the country in COVID cases, and the average age of those hospitalized is 30 to 55 years old.

We also know the pandemic isn’t over, as much as we’d like it to be.

We know the vaccines work.

Let’s learn from North Carolina State’s mistakes. Get vaccinated.