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While NYC Lifts Vax Rules So Athletes Can Play at Home, Omicron Variant BA.2 Spreads in Oregon

While NYC Lifts Vax Rules So Athletes Can Play at Home, Omicron Variant BA.2 Spreads in Oregon

An extra-contagious version of the Omicron variant that is fueling COVID-19 surges in parts of Europe and Asia has been found in the wastewater of some Oregon communities.

Oregon State University collected samples from more than 40 wastewater plants statewide, which is an indicator that measures how much virus is in a community, as well as detecting the particular variants of the virus. Based on the collection in early March, the Omicron subvariant BA.2 has been found in at least four communities. Nearby, in Washington State, health officials say the subvariant accounts for about one-fourth of COVID-19 cases there. Both states had lifted their indoor mask mandates for restaurants and other businesses on March 12th. Schools have also lifted their mask mandates as well. While it may not guarantee a serious surge, as a majority of Oregonians are vaccinated, scientists are at least able to now specify the omicron BA.2 subvariant separately from the other Omicron subvariants.

While cases and hospitalizations have drastically decreased in Oregon and continue to decline, the health authority did announce that the state surpassed a grim milestone this week, surpassing 7,000 coronavirus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic. Nationally, the BA.2 subvariant accounts for nearly 35% of COVID-19 cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported Tuesday.

But that hasn’t stopped states from making changes to their COVID protocols, despite the unvaccinated minority still capable of spreading the virus amongst themselves as well as to people who have been vaccinated. New York City’s new Mayor, Eric Adams, exempted athletes and performers — including Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving — from the city’s vaccine mandate on Thursday, while keeping the rule in place for private and public workers who risk losing their jobs for refusing to get inoculated. Several public employees unions, whose members were fired for refusing the shots, blasted Mayor Adams for apparently lifting the rule only for wealthy and famous athletes. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who preceded Adams, had made vaccination mandatory as a workplace safety rule last year before he left office but created a loophole exempting players and performers who aren’t based in New York City. Adams said he felt that was unfair and dismissed the criticism, saying exemptions for athletes and performers were “important to the city’s economic recovery”.

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The NBA and the players union issued a joint statement praising Adams’ decision. “We applaud the mayor for listening to the concerns of our New York teams, players, fans, and communities and for leveling the playing field for home teams and their opponents,” the statement said.

 

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