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U.S. Welcomes Back Tennis Fans At DraftKings All-American Team Cup

U.S. Welcomes Back Tennis Fans At DraftKings All-American Team Cup

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Photo Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

2020 has been a tough year for tennis players and fans alike. Two of the four Grand Slam events over the summer were drastically altered due to the coronavirus pandemic, with French  Open being moved from May to late September and Wimbledon being canceled outright. The U.S. Open will be held on schedule in August but with no fans in attendance, while other prominent U.S-based tournaments like the BNP Paribas Open and the Miami Open were canceled in March.

Despite the inherent social distancing nature of the sport, efforts to return professional to the court have hit snags. Top-ranked Novak Djokovic was forced to cancel his Adria Tour event after several players – including him and his wife – tested positive for COVID-19. The four-city tour, which began in Belgrade, was heavily criticized for its lack of social-distancing efforts, which led to Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric, Viktor Troicki, and his pregnant wife also testing positive for the virus. Other players have raised concern about competing, especially given tennis’s international footprint and travel requirements.

But a new event in Atlanta being held on July 3 to July 5 is not only looking to help relaunch the professional side of the sport, but also bring fans back as well.

The DraftKings All-American Team Cup, which will feature the top-eight American men’s tennis players in the world rankings at Life Time Athletic and Tennis in Peachtree Corners, will be the first sporting event in Georgia since the pandemic began, as well as the first tennis tournament to have fans in attendance in the United States since the 2020 Delray Beach Open in February.

“We know that there’s a lot of pressure on us, but we feel like it’s important that we’re able to show the world that a tennis event with fans can be done,” tournament director Eddie Gonzalez  said.

The cancelations that cut across the sports world caused the 2020 Truist Atlanta Open to be one of the casualties. Usually scheduled in July or August, the ATP Tour 250 tournament has risen in popularity since launching 10 years ago, attracting approximately 40,000 fans every year.

Before the 2020 Atlanta Open was formally canceled on May 15, Gonzalez had already received verbal confirmation from five-time champion John Isner that he was ready to play. When it became clear that the tournament would not be happening, Isner kept the dialogue open to see if there were any other options. 

Isner had made it clear to Gonzalez that he and other American players were interested in competing in an Atlanta-based tennis tournament. The agency that represents Isner, Topnotch Management, also has clients like Steve Johnson, Reilly Opelka, and Tennys Sandgren. 

Knowing that there was a legitimate level of buy-in from numerous players, Gonzalez next had to find a venue to accommodate any tournament. He landed on Life Time Athletic and Tennis, which has a stadium court, the amenities, and – very importantly – no built-out costs to host an event. 

READ MORE: US Open To Go On As Scheduled, But Without Fans

Finally, it needed media and corporate sponsors to join the event. DraftKings, which Gonzalez says had never ventured into tennis sponsorship, emerged as a title sponsor. It was then followed by securing Tennis Channel as a broadcast partner. The event will feature the four Topnotch Management players, as well as Taylor Fritz, Sam Querrey, Tommy Paul, and Frances Tiafoe. 

“Really a lot of the credit goes to John Isner, his [management] team and the American players,” Gonzalez said. “It was the end of May that I had a conversation with John and his agency, Topnotch Management, just letting me know that John was ready to play and the American players were ready to play. They know and trust us in Atlanta and said, ‘is there anything we can figure out there?’ and so here we are a month later.”

Welcoming tennis fans back to live events is a risky proposition for Gonzalez and the DraftKings All-American Team Cup. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, Georgia set a new record-high on June 29 for single-day increases in confirmed COVID-19 cases with more than 2,300 cases reported in 24 hours. Since June 26, the state has seen 6,422 cases, bringing the total number to 79,417 – the ninth-most in the country. It is one of 35 states designated by a New York Times’ database as seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases. As of June 30, Gwinnett County – where the Life Time Athletic and Tennis is based – has accounted for 7,755 cases, the most of any county in the state.

For the event, Gonzalez and tournament host GF Sports will be limiting the stadium seating capacity to no more than 30%. Gonzalez estimates that the number of people in attendance will fluctuate between 400 and 450.

The tournament’s ticketing software automatically blocks seats between every online transaction, meaning that if somebody buys two seats, the next three seats are restricted. Those three seats equate to six feet of social distancing. With seats being sold only in every other row, it remains consistent with a Georgia executive order banning gatherings of more than 50 people unless there are six feet between each person.

READ MORE: Tennis Channel Adjusts To New Reality Of Live Coverage

For those entering the venue – fans, patrons, volunteers, staff, and players – will be subject to temperature checks. Players will also be tested for COVID-19 before their arrival, Gonzalez said. 

“We have two great physicians who are well-renowned and well-respected and have been a part of our ATP event,” Gonzalez said. “They are helping make sure that we have the utmost COVID-19 protocol to be able to showcase for the world that tennis can be played with fans in a very safe and social-distanced environment.”

There won’t be 40,000 people in attendance at the DraftKings All-American Team Cup; there might not be 2,000. But, Gonzalez said he has seen a strong interest in fans wanting to attend the event. As of June 30, it is one sale away from selling out its $2,500 Michelob Ultra Courtside & Club View Table packages. Three of the five-match sessions have seen people calling the ticket office to ensure that they can have two seats together, Gonzalez said. By the time that play begins, he anticipates the event being at or near a sellout for every session.

As his fellow American players return to the court, professional tennis player Noah Rubin is having a difficult time justifying fans being in attendance. Events like the UTR Pro Match Series and the Tennis Point Exhibition Series show that professional tennis can happen even with the absence of spectators. 

Sixteen WTA players recently came together to launch the Credit One Bank Invitational in Charleston, which ran from June 23 to 28 and was the largest-scale event since the sport reopened in late April – all without fans. Miami also hosted the three-day Altec Styslinger Tennis Exhibition, played without fans at a private home, from June 29 to July 1. That too featured Johnson, Opelka, Querrey, and Sandgren before they ventured to Georgia for the DraftKings All-American Team Cup.

“I just think it’s an unnecessary risk right now,” Rubin said. “If you weigh the pros and cons, and when I do it quickly in my head, it doesn’t add up. What are we gaining from taking this risk right now? Numbers [of COVID-19 cases] are going in the wrong direction. You have Georgia being one of those states that’s highly affected by a spike. It just doesn’t really make sense when I put it all together.”

“The girls had it in Charleston, and there’s one in Miami right now, where everybody’s social distancing, and that seems to be fine. That seems to be not really affecting people. They’re doing it the right way, but once you start bringing fans from a place with a lot of cases, I don’t know what the pros of that risk are besides financial gain.”

Gonzalez finds it difficult to compare the DraftKings All-American Tour and its capacity limitations to the laissez-faire approach taken by Djokovic’s Adria Tour. He is confident that he and GF Sports are ready to welcome tennis fans back but that they can also host an event under less-than-normal circumstances.

“There’s no 100% sure-fire guarantee, but we feel like we have checked every box manageable,” Gonzalez said. “Working very closely with the city of Peachtree corners and Gwinnett County leadership as well as the governor’s office and the governor’s guidelines, we’re a hundred percent confident that we can present a very safe and healthy event.”

“If we can have a positive event in which all the players and the fans and our partners walk away saying, ‘we’re glad we’re a part of it,’ we will view that as a success.”

The post U.S. Welcomes Back Tennis Fans At DraftKings All-American Team Cup appeared first on Front Office Sports.

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“The Real President Is Whoever Controls The Teleprompter”: Musk Delivers Scathing Criticism Of Biden

"The Real President Is Whoever Controls The Teleprompter": Musk Delivers Scathing Criticism Of Biden

Authored by Jack Phillips via The Epoch…

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"The Real President Is Whoever Controls The Teleprompter": Musk Delivers Scathing Criticism Of Biden

Authored by Jack Phillips via The Epoch Times,

Tech billionaire Elon Musk this week warned that the United States must take steps to address inflation or it will end up like socialist Venezuela.

Musk, who is currently in the process of acquiring Twitter, told a virtual conference that he believes the government has printed too much money in recent years.

“I mean, the obvious reason for inflation is that the government printed a zillion amount of more money than it had, obviously,” Musk said, likely referring to COVID-19 relief stimulus packages worth trillions of dollars that were passed in recent years.

U.S. inflation rose by 8.3 percent in April, compared with the previous year. That’s slightly lower than the 8.5 percent spike in March, but it’s still near the 40-year high.

“So it’s like the government can’t … issue checks far in excess of revenue without there being inflation, you know, velocity of money held constant,” the Tesla CEO said.

“If the federal government writes checks, they never bounce. So that is effectively creation of more dollars. And if there are more dollars created, then the increase in the goods and services across the economy, then you have inflation, again, velocity of money held constant.”

If governments could merely “issue massive amounts of money and deficits didn’t matter, then, well, why don’t we just make the deficit 100 times bigger,” Musk asked. “The answer is, you can’t because it will basically turn the dollar into something that is worthless.”

“Various countries have tried this experiment multiple times,” Musk said.

“Have you seen Venezuela? Like the poor, poor people of Venezuela are, you know, have been just run roughshod by their government.”

In 2018, Venezuela, a country with significant reserves of oil and gas, saw its inflation rise more than 65,000 percent amid an economic crash that included plummeting oil prices and government price controls. The regime of Nicolas Maduro then started printing money, thereby devaluing its currency, which caused prices to rapidly increase.

During the conference, Musk also said the Biden administration “doesn’t seem to get a lot done” and questioned who is actually in charge. 

“The real president is whoever controls the teleprompter,” he said.

“The path to power is the path to the teleprompter.”

“The Trump administration, leaving Trump aside, there were a lot of people in the administration who were effective at getting things done,” he remarked.

Musk’s comment about the White House comes as Jeff Bezos, also one of the richest people in the world, has increasingly started to target the administration’s economic policies. Bezos, in a series of Twitter posts, said the rapid increase in federal spending is the reason why inflation is as high as it is.

“Remember the Administration tried their best to add another $3.5 TRILLION to federal spending,” Bezos wrote on Monday, drawing rebuke from several White House officials. “They failed, but if they had succeeded, inflation would be even higher than it is today, and inflation today is at a 40-year high.”

Tyler Durden Tue, 05/17/2022 - 15:05

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Type-I interferon stops immune system ‘going rogue’ during viral infections

Hamilton, ON (May 17, 2022) – McMaster University researchers have found not only how some viral infections cause severe tissue damage, but also how…

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Hamilton, ON (May 17, 2022) – McMaster University researchers have found not only how some viral infections cause severe tissue damage, but also how to reduce that damage.

Credit: Georgia Kirkos/McMaster University

Hamilton, ON (May 17, 2022) – McMaster University researchers have found not only how some viral infections cause severe tissue damage, but also how to reduce that damage.

 

They have discovered how Type I interferon (IFN) stops the immune system ‘going rogue’ and attacking the body’s own tissues when fighting viral infections, including COVID-19.

 

Their paper was published in the journal PLOS Pathogens today.

  

Senior author Ali Ashkar said IFN is a well-known anti-viral signalling molecule released by the body’s cells that can trigger a powerful immune response against harmful viruses.

 

“What we have found is that it is also critical to stop white blood cells from releasing protease enzymes, which can damage organ tissue. It has this unique dual function to kick start an immune response against a viral infection on the one hand, as well as restrain that same response to prevent significant bystander tissue damage on the other,” he said.

 

The research team investigated IFN’s ability to regulate a potentially dangerous immune response by testing it on both flu and the HSV-2 virus, a highly prevalent sexually transmitted pathogen, using mice. Data from COVID-19 patients in Germany, including post-mortem lung samples, was also used in the study.

 

“For many viral infections, it is not actually the virus that causes most of the tissue damage, it is our heightened immune activation towards the virus,” said Ashkar, a professor of medicine at McMaster.

  

First co-author of the study and PhD student Emily Feng said: “Our body’s immune response is trying to fight off the virus infection, but there’s a risk of damaging innocent healthy tissue in the process. IFNs regulates the immune response to only target tissues that are infected.

 

“By discovering the mechanisms the immune system uses that can inadvertently cause tissue damage, we can intervene during infection to prevent this damage and not necessarily have to wait until vaccines are developed to develop life-saving treatments,” she added.

 

“This applies not just to COVID-19, but also other highly infectious viruses such as flu and Ebola, which can cause tremendous and often life-threatening damage to the body’s organs,” said first study co-author Amanda Lee, a family medicine resident. 

 

Ashkar said the release of harmful proteases is the result of a ‘cytokine storm’, which is life-threatening inflammation sometimes triggered by viral infections. It has been a common cause of death in patients with COVID-19, but treatment has been developed to prevent and suppress the cytokine storm.

 

Ashkar said that steroids like dexamethasone are already used to rein in an extreme immune response to viral infections. The authors used doxycycline in their study, an antibiotic used for bacterial infections and as an anti-inflammatory agent, inhibits the function of proteases causing the bystander tissue damage.

 

Lee added: “This has the potential in the future to be used to alleviate virus-induced life-threatening inflammation and warrants further research.” 

 

The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

 

-30-

 

Editors:

Pictures of Ali Ashkar and Emily Feng may be found at https://bit.ly/3wmSw0D

  

 

 


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mRNA vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna fare better against COVID-19 variants of concern

A comparison of four COVID-19 vaccinations shows that messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines — Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — perform better against the World…

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A comparison of four COVID-19 vaccinations shows that messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines — Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — perform better against the World Health Organization’s variants of concern (VOCs) than viral vector vaccines — AstraZeneca and J&J/Janssen. Although they all effectively prevent severe disease by VOCs, the research, publishing May 17th in the open access journal PLOS Medicine, suggests that people receiving a viral vector vaccine are more vulnerable to infection by new variants.

Credit: Carlos Reusser Monsalvez, Flickr (CC0, https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/)

A comparison of four COVID-19 vaccinations shows that messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines — Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — perform better against the World Health Organization’s variants of concern (VOCs) than viral vector vaccines — AstraZeneca and J&J/Janssen. Although they all effectively prevent severe disease by VOCs, the research, publishing May 17th in the open access journal PLOS Medicine, suggests that people receiving a viral vector vaccine are more vulnerable to infection by new variants.

By March 2022, COVID-19 had caused over 450 million confirmed infections and six million reported deaths. The first vaccines approved in the US and Europe that protect against serious infection are Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which deliver genetic code, known as mRNA, to the bodies’ cells, whereas Oxford/AstraZeneca and J&J/Janssen are viral vector vaccines that use a modified version of a different virus — a vector — to deliver instructions to our cells. Three vaccines are delivered as two separate injections a few weeks apart, and J&J/Janssen as a single dose.

Marit J. van Gils at the University of Amsterdam, Netherlands, and colleagues, took blood samples from 165 healthcare workers, three and four weeks after first and second vaccination respectively, and for J&J/Janssen at four to five and eight weeks after vaccination. Samples were collected before, and four weeks after a Pfizer-BioNTech booster.

Four weeks after the initial two doses, antibody responses to the original SARS-CoV-2 viral strain were highest in recipients of Moderna, followed closely by Pfizer-BioNTech, and were substantially lower in those who received viral vector vaccines. Tested against the VOCs – Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Omicron – neutralizing antibodies were higher in the mRNA vaccine recipients compared to those who had viral vector vaccines. The ability to neutralize VOCs was reduced in all vaccine groups, with the greatest reduction against Omicron. The Pfizer-BioNTech booster increased antibody responses in all groups with substantial improvement against VOCs, including Omicron.

The researchers caution that their AstraZeneca group was significantly older, because of safety concerns for the vaccine in younger age groups. As immune responses tend to weaken with age, this could affect the results. This group was also smaller because the Dutch government halted use for a period.

van Gils concludes, “Four COVID-19 vaccines induce substantially different antibody responses.”

#####

In your coverage, please use this URL to provide access to the freely available paper in PLOS Medicine:

http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1003991

Citation: van Gils MJ, Lavell A, van der Straten K, Appelman B, Bontjer I, Poniman M, et al. (2022) Antibody responses against SARS-CoV-2 variants induced by four different SARS-CoV-2 vaccines in health care workers in the Netherlands: A prospective cohort study. PLoS Med 19(5): e1003991. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1003991

 

Author Countries: The Netherlands, United States

 

Funding: This work was supported by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) ZonMw (Vici grant no. 91818627 to R.W.S., S3 study, grant agreement no. 10430022010023 to M.K.B.; RECoVERED, grant agreement no. 10150062010002 to M.D.d.J.), by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (grant no. INV002022 and INV008818 to R.W.S. and INV-024617 to M.J.v.G.), by Amsterdam UMC through the AMC Fellowship (to M.J.v.G.) and the Corona Research Fund (to M.K.B.), and by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program (RECoVER, grant no. 101003589 to M.D.d.J). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.


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