The Rundown: Education Key to Reversing Vaccine Hesitancy, Báez Struggling With Strike Zone Heat, Acuña Jr. Terrorizing Opposing Pitchers

“If you were to address the [anti-vaxxers] arguments perfectly, they would come up with new ones. The arguments don’t matter. They have this fear of vaccines that’s driven by emotion and stories their neighbors and friends have told them, which they use to justify those beliefs.” – Jonathan Berman, New York Institute of Technology.

The Cubs were off yesterday and conversation took a hard turn toward the seeming lack of effort by Tier 1 employees of the organization to reach the mandated 85% immunization rate in order to relax league protocols. Of course, social media is erupting with a lot of misinformation and finger-pointing, and that never helps.

In the wake of all the social media outrage, it is worth pointing out a few things:

  1. Reaching 85% does not, in fact, eradicate the disease and it probably doesn’t offer the protective measure some think. It only takes one infected person to initiate the spread of COVID-19, and though players who are immunized should feel protected, we’re realistically in a worldwide clinical stage since the vaccines were not as thoroughly tested as they would be under normal circumstances. Bullpen coach Chris Young had reportedly just received his second vaccination when he tested positive, and first base coach Craig Driver was between his two doses when he was stricken.
  2. Reaching 85% does mean fewer restrictions, which doesn’t necessarily equate to a safer environment. From the WHO website: The proportion of the population that must be vaccinated against COVID-19 to begin inducing herd immunity is not known. Population immunity against measles requires about 95% of all humans to be vaccinated. For polio, the threshold is about 80%.
  3. Vaccine hesitancy is not the same thing as being an anti-vaxxer. According to a recent study, 64% of the population are likely to accept the inoculations and just under 9% will flat-out refuse. That means 27% are still trying to educate themselves. It makes no sense to label them as anti-vaxxers, and bullying or attacking those individuals will only serve to increase that hesitancy. We need those sitting on the fence to come around in order to reach herd immunity. Don’t push them to become anti-vaxxers.
  4. Though I am pro-immunization, I understand it is not mandatory and, though nobody is asking for empathy, it is important to recognize the rights of individuals. Saying things like, “The Cubs should waive or fire anyone who refuses the vaccine” just shows ignorance. The science behind the vaccines seems pretty accurate and that, rather than any accusatory agenda, should be the path to least resistance.
  5. Anti-vaxxers are part of a troublesome, ever-expanding community. A survey commissioned by the Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) noted that 31 million people follow anti-vaccine groups on Facebook, with 17 million people subscribing to similar accounts on YouTube. Those groups, whose numbers continue to climb, willfully spread false narratives and disinformation and net social media sites $1 billion in annual revenue, according to the same study.
  6. We are all aware that attention-grabbing headlines and sensationalist content can attract even the savviest internet users, instigate hatred, and generate increased user engagement. That’s how social media works: Divide and conquer for profit.
  7. As an organization, the Cubs are doing and saying the right things. It’s easy to get caught up in the recent outbreak among the coaching staff and the sequestering of players “out of an abundance of caution” and point fingers. Though the team was resistant to any outbreaks in 2020, mathematically it was only a matter of time before something like this happened.
  8. As far as anyone knows, Eric Sogard has not tested positive for symptomatic or asymptomatic COVID, so he is not responsible for the outbreak no matter his wife’s takes on the vaccinations. With a batting average of .136, he is only guilty of not hitting, an endemic of equal concern for the North Siders.

In 2019, the WHO named vaccine hesitancy one of the top 10 threats to global health. This was during a time when global uptake of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine had slipped to 85%, significantly below the requirements to prevent community transmission. It is therefore important that we educate those who remain hesitant to immunization, and massage their concerns rather than engage in any misguided character assassination.

If taking to social media simply to attack others is your bag, you’re probably just as problematic as the anti-vaxxers. We’re all tired of mask mandates, shelter-in-place, and social distancing, and we’d like to see Wrigley Field packed to capacity game after game. We can get there, but it’s only going to happen through a unified, educated effort.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Is that Angel Hernandez behind the plate?

How About That!

After opening the season with three straight losses, the Red Sox won nine straight games, but the Twins stopped that run yesterday.

Boston is one of three teams that did not have a Black player on their Opening Day roster. The Diamondbacks and Giants are the others.

Ronald Acuña Jr. is riding an incredible 162-game heater and has become the prototype of a new, terrifying type of leadoff batter.

The Braves center fielder would make a wonderful addition to your Beer Pong squad.

The Dodgers and Padres will renew their rivalry this weekend.

San Diego is expected to activate shortstop Fernando Tatís Jr. before today’s series opener.

Thursday’s Three Stars

  1. Jackie Robinson – On April 15, 1947, Robinson broke the color barrier and was honored by all of baseball yesterday. Mike Royko of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote a great tribute to the groundbreaking Dodger the day after Robinson died in 1972.
  2. Ronald Acuña Jr. – The Braves outfielder had another homer yesterday, his seventh of the year. He now has 14 extra-base hits, tied with Henry Aaron (1959) for most by a Braves player in the team’s first 13 games of a season.
  3. Justin Turner – The Dodgers third-sacker was 3-for-3 with a home run and three RBI as Los Angeles improved to 11-2 with a 7-5 win over the Rockies.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

The Red Sox will honor Patriots Day and the Boston Marathon in partnership with Nike by wearing special City Connect uniforms (retailing for $435) this weekend. The Cubs are one of seven teams who will participate this season, and should soon unveil the uniforms they’ll wear for their June 21 game against Cleveland. Let’s hope they don’t honor the first McDonald’s franchise with a ketchup/mustard/pickle-themed ensemble.

Personally, I’d like to see the Cubs and Nike find some way to honor the AAGPBL, and the colors match up nicely.

Extra Innings

Your pitching staff is pretty damn deep when David Price is your secondary closer. The Dodgers may win 120 games this year. If they played in the NL Central that would be a certainty.

They Said It

  • “Listen, obviously we have to get our vaccination numbers up as much as possible, not only as a team but as a culture. “But [this week] is just a reminder: It’s still out there. There’s a lot of COVID out in the world right now. You read these articles, and on the one hand you’ve got the vaccination numbers going up, which is great. But on the other hand, with variants and stuff like that it’s not as if this is going away, right? That’s the reality.” – Jed Hoyer
  • “With a couple positive [COVID-19 tests] on the coaching staff, we have to be ultimately conservative when it comes to guys just having a runny nose or a little stopped up and congested. We have to really be careful and make sure we’re being diligent.” – David Ross

Friday Walk Up Song

Ordinary Man by Ozzy Osbourne and Elton John. After 13 months of this shit we’re all a little weary and irritable right now, but  we should continue to drive forward with maximum effort and compassion.

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