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World Cup 2022: Media Confronts Moral Dilemmas and Coverage Quirks in Qatar

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Reporters and broadcasters are grappling with how to handle human rights concerns, political protests, and unusual restrictions—from filming to buying beer—while not missing the action on the pitch. “It feels,” says one journalist, “like a country that’s being unboxed for a World Cup.”

 

World Cup 2022 Media Confronts Moral Dilemmas and Coverage Quirks in Qatar

 

Illustration by Khoa Tran. Champion, Strong: Alamy; Players, Trophy, Qatar: Getty Images.

Reporters and broadcasters who cover a World Cup often don’t get a chance to unpack their luggage. The assignment is one that typically sends them hurtling from one airport to another, exploring the vast expanse of a host nation, rarely dwelling in one place for long. Barney Ronay, the chief sports writer for The Guardian, took 17 flights over the course of 30 days while covering the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. John Strong, the lead play-by-play soccer announcer for Fox Sports, likes to joke that he earned “silver status on Siberian airways” four years ago when the competition was held in Russia. “We were constantly on the move,” said Strong, who will be part of the team covering the United States’ opening match on Monday against Wales. “We would call a game, drive to the airport, and be on a 1 a.m. departure, and then connect through Moscow to go to the next city.”

This year’s World Cup in Qatar, which kicked off Sunday, will pose no such travel burdens. Visiting media personnel will take only two flights––one for arrival and one for departure. The eight stadiums hosting matches are all within a 35-mile radius of Doha, situated in and around the capital city. “The biggest change is how we’ll be living and existing,” said Jon Champion, who will provide play-by-play commentary for the British broadcaster ITV. This will be the first World Cup held in winter, a move to avoid Qatar’s stifling summer heat, and Champion says it will also be the first where he won’t be living out of his suitcase. “I’ll be able to set up camp in a hotel room in the middle of Doha, and I will return there every night regardless of where I’ll be calling my game,” said Champion, who’s covered every men’s World Cup since Italia ’90. “The longest journey I’ll face is 40 minutes.”

Those logistical anomalies offer some practical advantages––a less hectic itinerary will free up more time to take in the action on the field––but that might be the only easy part about covering the 2022 World Cup, where the assembled journalists in Qatar are finding it nearly impossible to treat it like another sporting event. This year’s edition of the tournament will test those in sports media who have strained to avoid politics in an era when sports are increasingly and explicitly political.

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“We, as an outlet, have a responsibility to cover the tournament, top to bottom, and that’s not just the soccer side of it,” said Paul Tenorio, the national soccer reporter for The Athletic, who is covering his first World Cup in Qatar.

The decision to hold the tournament in the tiny Gulf state has been shrouded by allegations of bribery, and the staging of the event has come to be regarded as a human rights tragedy. Qatar’s treatment of its migrant workers, who built the stadiums and transportation infrastructure that will be used for the World Cup, has drawn international condemnation. A report published last year by The Guardian found that 6,500 of those workers had died since the country was selected in 2010 to host the tournament.

There are also concerns over how the host nation will treat its visitors. Homosexuality is outlawed in Qatar, although, according to The Guardian, law enforcement has reportedly agreed to show restraint when confronted with public displays of affection from those in the LGBTQ community. Members of the press may not be afforded such leniency. Organizers have imposed restrictions on where and what media outlets can document, prohibiting filming or photography of residential properties, private businesses, and government facilities. The government’s hardline posture has already led to incidents. Last week Qatari security officials interrupted a Danish television crew’s live shot on the streets of Doha and threatened to break their camera equipment; organizers for the World Cup later apologized and said it was a mistake.

“There’s a genuine hostility between media, fans, and host nation that I’ve never known before,” said Ronay, who is covering his third men’s World Cup this year. “It’s not supposed to be like this.” Ronay is concerned that there could be more incidents between journalists and the Qatari authorities, but he also believes the fraught atmosphere makes it impossible for the media to cover the event strictly through the prism of sport. “There is only one story,” Ronay said, “and the story is: ‘What the hell are we all doing here?’”

Fans walk passed Lusail Stadium before FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 on 18 November 2022 in Lusail Qatar.
Fans walk passed Lusail Stadium before FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 on 18 November 2022 in Lusail, Qatar.By Simon Holmes/NurPhoto/Getty Images.

Smaller in total area than Connecticut and with fewer people than Kansas, Qatar is easily dwarfed by the 17 countries to previously host the World Cup. “It’s just crazy when you look at the history of where this tournament has been played––Uruguay, Argentina, Spain, Italy, Mexico––all these really prominent football nations,” said Sam Wallace, the chief football writer for The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph. “Then there’s Qatar. It just stands out.”

Wallace was in Zurich that night in 2010 when FIFA stunned the sporting world with its selection of Qatar, making it the first country in the Middle East to host the tournament. Qatar spent the next 12 years building around $220 billion worth of new infrastructure, including stadiums for the tournament and an underground metro. “Everything is new,” said The Athletic’s Sam Stejskal, who is staying in an apartment with Tenorio outside of Doha. The ground floor of the apartment building features a Kentucky Fried Chicken and Krispy Kreme, both of which just opened. “It feels sort of like a country that’s being unboxed for a World Cup,” Stejskal said.

The new infrastructure was built by Qatar’s population of migrant workers, most of whom come from South Asia. There are nearly 3 million people in the country, but only 300,000 of those are Qatari citizens. The rest are expatriates hailing from the likes of Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal. Wallace arrived in Doha earlier this month, well before most of his colleagues. He spent those first few days exploring the city on one of the many available e-scooters. On one of his first nights, Wallace came upon a large gathering of Argentina fans, nearly all of whom were Indian expats. As he continued on, Wallace saw another group of Indian expats, but this time they wore the colors of Brazil. “I think I’ve met one Qatari national,” Wallace said. “Most of the people you bump into are migrant workers.”

There was a similar scene last week when hundreds of ostensible England fans, mostly Indian expatriates, gathered at the team’s hotel, prompting accusations that they were paid to generate a spirited atmosphere. World Cup organizers pushed back forcefully against those claims, but there is precedent for similar arrangements. When Doha hosted the World Athletics Championships in 2019, organizers shuttled in migrant workers and schoolchildren to bolster the event’s sluggish attendance. (FIFA said last month that nearly 3 million tickets had been sold for this year’s World Cup.)

For those on the ground in Qatar, it is hard to disentangle the pageantry of the World Cup from those who toiled to make it possible. Stejskal attended a training session for the US team in Doha, where players and coaches had a kick-about with a group of migrant workers. FIFA organizers framed the meet-and-greet as a show of gratitude for the workers and their contributions to the World Cup, but it was impossible for Stejskal to look past the unsavory elements.

“That, to me, was an encapsulation of the entire tournament,” Stejskal said. “On a micro level, if you take out the context, it’s a fun and happy thing. But when you actually think about everything that’s going on, that fun and happy thing has a much darker side.”

Stejskal, covering his first World Cup, said he’s compartmentalizing the experience, separating his excitement for the competition from his squeamishness over the way it came together. “I’m trying to separate the art from the artist,” he said.

Other fans of the game have been forced into a similar bargain, as global football has been upended this century by the entrance of a number of Middle Eastern petro states. Manchester City has become the most dominant club in England thanks to the largess of its owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates. Another English club, Newcastle United, was purchased last year by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. The Qataris, empowered by their country’s control of one of the world’s largest reserves of natural gas, have been players on this front too. Qatar’s state-run shareholding organization owns Paris Saint-Germain, a team of galacticos headlined by Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappé, and Neymar.

Those takeovers are widely seen as textbook cases of “sportswashing,” whereby a country with a tarnished image uses a beloved game to launder its reputation. The 2022 World Cup may be the ultimate expression of that. “Sports and the geopolitical power of these tournaments are indivisible,” said Wallace. “This is a tournament that was brought here for the glorification of a very tiny, very wealthy nation-state that has preoccupations with its standing in the world. That’s why we’re here. There is not a chance we would be here if not for the politics of sport.”

Qatari officials have hit back at the scrutiny surrounding the tournament, accusing some critics of racism and Islamophobia. Others have observed a double standard in the condemnations of Qatar. Piers Morgan, who has said he’ll be attending the games as a Fox pundit, questioned the consistency of those protesting the host of this year’s World Cup. “Once you start putting your moral halo on, where does this stop and who is morally clean enough to actually host a World Cup?” Morgan said in an interview on a British podcast last week, bringing up the “draconian” abortion laws in the United States and the invasion of Iraq.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino echoed those sentiments over the weekend. In a fiery press conference on the eve of the tournament’s opening match, Infantino defended Qatar and chastised Western critics for their “hypocrisy.” He added, “I think for what we Europeans have been doing around the world for the last 3,000 years, we should be apologizing for the next 3,000 years before starting to give moral lessons,” Infantino said.

SC Freiburg Fans with protest signs against the championships in Qatar during the Bundesliga match between SportClub...
SC Freiburg Fans with protest signs against the championships in Qatar during the Bundesliga match between Sport-Club Freiburg and 1. FC Union Berlin at Europa-Park Stadion on November 13, 2022 in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany. By Helge Prang/Getty Images.

Qatar has said that more than 12,000 journalists have been accredited to cover the World Cup, some of whom are content to stick to sports. Fox, which paid FIFA $425 million for the rights to broadcast the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in the United States, has signaled that it has little appetite to wade into the off-field controversies.

“If a story affects the field of play, if it affects the competition in the tournament, we will cover it fully,” David Neal, the executive producer of Fox’s World Cup presentation, told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “If it doesn’t, if it’s ancillary to the tournament, if it has to do with the construction of the venues or what have you, we’re going to leave that to other entities to cover. Our focus is entirely on the 64-game tournament.” Neal said that fans prefer it that way too, telling the Inquirer that “viewers come to Fox Sports during the World Cup to see the greatest sports event in the world.”

World Cup organizers clearly hope broadcasters stick to sports. Earlier this month, Infantino and FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura sent a letter to all 32 teams competing in the World Cup, urging them to “focus on football” and avoid being “dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists.”

When we spoke earlier this month, two days before he flew to Doha, Fox Sports’s Strong said the requirements of his job precluded him from addressing much beyond the match itself. “One of the key things they teach you when you’re a play-by-play broadcaster is to talk about what’s on the screen,” said Strong, who will call the World Cup final for Fox next month. “While the game is going on, it is difficult to get into other stuff.”

Strong spoke obliquely about the controversies surrounding the tournament, calling them “important topics” and praising the “really important journalism” that has been done on the matters. “I think all of us have our opinions,” said Strong. Indeed, Strong and other play-by-play commentators like Champion have a primary directive to inform viewers about and contextualize the events on the field. “It would be very dangerous to go into this as a broadcaster on some sort of crusade,” said Champion. But in Qatar, the controversy will never be far removed from the competition itself. Champion said he would be “very surprised to go through the entire World Cup and not be in some way forced into that territory.” A number of players are expected to wear rainbow armbands as a repudiation of Qatar’s anti-gay policies, which Champion said would demand an on-air mention. And any reference to the sites of the matches could nudge an announcer into thorny terrain.

“Normally, you go into these broadcasts and you wax lyrical about how marvelous the setting is for the game and what a wonderful job they’ve done on the stadium,” Champion said. “How do you do that when you know that at the same time you’ve got such a controversy raging about the conditions of the migrant workers who actually built this wonderful cathedral?”

Fox made a point to stray from the political when it broadcast the 2018 World Cup in Russia, which was also accompanied by international criticism over the host country’s human rights record. The veteran American soccer writer Grant Wahl was part of Fox’s coverage in Russia. When his contract with the network was up in 2019, Wahl said he chose to not pursue an extension.

“It was largely because of what I had seen with their approach in Russia, and knowing that their approach to Qatar would be very similar,” Wahl said. Wahl noted that NBC’s Mike Tirico provided candid and critical analysis of China’s human rights record earlier this year during the network’s coverage of the Winter Olympics in Beijing. “They didn’t put their heads in the sand like Fox is with Qatar,” Wahl said.

Wahl had hosted a podcast with the former US soccer star Landon Donovan throughout the United States’ qualification for the World Cup, and they had planned to continue the series during the tournament in Qatar. But after Donovan joined Fox’s broadcasting team, Wahl said, the network blocked him from continuing to work on the podcast. A Fox spokesperson did not respond for comment.

Wahl arrived in Qatar last week for what will be his eighth men’s World Cup, and his third time visiting the country. He first went there in 2013 while working for Sports Illustrated to do a story on the country’s preparations to host the tournament, interacting mostly with Qatari officials throughout the visit. “What I realized during that trip was that once they knew I was here, they wanted to schedule me out so I was so busy during my stay that I wouldn’t have any time to do independent reporting,” he said.

Wahl, who now writes for his own independent website, returned to Qatar earlier this year for another reporting trip, but this time he recalibrated his approach. He didn’t speak to any government officials, nor did he publicize his location on social media. Instead, Wahl spent his visit interviewing migrant workers. He wanted to find out if the country had made good on a number of reforms designed to give a greater level of protection to those workers. “It was pretty clear that several of these laws were not being followed on the ground,” Wahl said. “In my experience, Qatar almost treats the workers like they’re invisible.” The Qatari government did not respond for comment.

Wahl was motivated to report on the subject then because, as he said, “once the tournament starts, I expect that most of my stuff will be about soccer.” It may prove more challenging to cover those topics over the next month too. Wahl has already run afoul of the Qatari authorities since he arrived last week. While in the media accreditation center, he said, he was admonished by a security official for taking a photo of a slogan displayed on the wall. Wahl said the official told him to delete it from his phone.

That encounter, along with the incident involving the Danish TV crew, has only raised fears that the host nation will interfere with the media’s ability to report freely on the event. Organizations such as Reporters Without Borders have denounced the Qatari government’s restrictions on where outlets can film.

It also adds more bleakness to an event that has historically been defined by its carnival atmosphere. Photos of the fan villages, where visitors will sleep in plastic tents and rooms that resemble shipping containers, have evoked comparisons to Fyre Festival. The compact nature of this year’s tournament will make it less of an odyssey compared to the traditional World Cup–going experience, in which visitors are offered a grand sweep of a country’s varying cultures and geography. “To me, it seems like it’s going to be a World Cup without the vivid colors,” said Champion. “I think one place is going to look very much like another.”

It is already guaranteed to be the least boozy World Cup. Alcohol is highly restricted in the conservative Muslim country, and it’s normally only permitted in a few designated hotels and restaurants. Wahl, who is staying in a townhouse with three other journalists covering the World Cup, lamented that he wouldn’t be able to grab a bottle of wine or a six-pack of beer after a long workday. “I literally can’t have alcohol in my house,” he said. Qatari organizers pulled an eleventh hour change on Friday, only two days before the opening match, when they abruptly announced a ban on beer sales at the stadiums. Alcohol sales will now only be allowed at the FIFA Fan Festival and other designated locations. But as he embarks on his ninth men’s World Cup, Champion remains bullish on its capacity to generate joy. “The World Cup always produces,” he said. “It’s yet to let us down.”

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Transcript: CDC Media Telebriefing – Update on Respiratory Disease Circulation | CDC Online Newsroom – CDC

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00:00

Welcome and thank you for standing by participants are in a listen only mode until the question and answer session of today’s event. At that time, you may press star one on your touch tone phone if you care to ask a question. Today’s conference is being recorded. If you have any objections, you may please disconnect at this time. And I would like to turn it over to your host, Mr. Ben Haynes from the CDC. Answer You may begin. Thank you, Fran. And thank you all for joining us today to discuss respiratory disease circulation and kickoff. The National influenza vaccines Vaccination Week we’re joined by Dr. by CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, and Board Chair of the American Medical Association, Dr. Sandra Fryhofer following their opening remarks, we will open up the lines to take your questions. I will now turn the call over to Dr. Walensky.

00:49

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Good afternoon and thank you for joining us to discuss the need to increase vaccine uptake both flu and COVID during National Influenza Vaccination Week, and the high amount of multiple respiratory illnesses that we are seeing in the United States right now. Before I dive into the data with you, I just want to take a moment to recognize our healthcare and public health workers. The past several years have certainly not been easy, and we now face yet another surge of illness. Another moment of overstretched capacity and really one of tragic and often preventable sadness. I speak for many when I say we could not be more thankful for the work you continue to do to do every single day to save lives.

01:32

As we are all aware, nationally, we are seeing elevated levels of respiratory viruses including RSV, flu and COVID-19. Especially for RSV and flu, these levels are higher than we generally see this time of year. Levels of flu like illness, which includes people going to the doctor with a fever and a cough or sore throat are at either high or very high levels in 47 jurisdictions and that is up from 36 jurisdictions just last week. CDC estimates that since October 1, there have already been at least 8.7 million illnesses, 78,000 hospitalizations and 4500 deaths from flu. Flu hospital admissions reported through HHS’s hospital surveillance system, which were already high for this time of year have nearly doubled during the last reporting period. Compared to the week prior hospitalizations for flu continue to be the highest we have seen at this time of year in a decade, demonstrating the significantly earlier flu season we are experiencing.

02:41

In addition, last week, we tragically reported two more flu deaths in children. A heartbreaking total of 14 pediatric deaths have already been reported so far just this season. So I want to emphasize that flu vaccines can be life saving and importantly, there is still time to get vaccinated to be protected against flu this season. And it’s potentially serious consequences. Getting vaccinated is especially important for those at higher risk of severe flu illness, including those who are younger than five years old. Those who are older than 65 pregnant people and people who have certain underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk for severe and serious consequences. These also include groups experiencing the highest rates of hospitalization right now. concern only for some of these higher risk groups like children, adults over 65 and pregnant people. We are seeing lower rates of vaccination compared to this time last year. CDC also continues to closely track COVID-19 activity. In the past week, we’ve started to see the unfortunate and expected rise of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations nationally after the Thanksgiving holiday. This rise in cases and hospitalizations is especially worrisome as we move into the winter months when more people are assembling indoors with less ventilation. And as we approach the holiday season where many are gathering with loved ones across multiple generations. Additionally, RSP continues to remain high nationally with variations and activity levels regionally. We have seen signs that RSV may have peaked in some areas like the south and southeast and may be leveling off in the mid atlantic New England and Midwest. And while this is encouraging respiratory viruses continue to spread at high levels nationwide. And even in areas where RSV may be decreasing. Our hospital systems continue to be stressed with high numbers of patients with other respiratory illnesses. So as people look to protect themselves in their families, I want to leave you with three important steps we can all take to reduce the burden of respiratory illnesses. First and foremost, get vaccinated for two of the three viruses discussed today. There are vaccines updated

05:00

COVID-19 bivalient vaccines and flu vaccines are safe, they’re effective and they can lower the risk of infection in general, and especially lower the risk of severe illness and death, mostly updated COVID-19 vaccines and this year’s flu vaccines were formulated to protect against the viruses that are currently circulating right now. And recent data from CDC show updated COVID-19 vaccines help protect against COVID-19 illness, and COVID-19 associated deaths. Early surveillance shows that people who received their updated COVID-19 vaccine this year were nearly 15 times less likely to die from COVID-19 compared to people who are not vaccinated, and were also less likely to die from those than those who were vaccinated but had not received an updated COVID-19 vaccine. Importantly, we know that if you’ve received your primary series only your primary COVID vaccine series only you are considered fully vaccinated but you are not considered fully protected. To be best protected against severe disease this winter, you should get an updated vaccine as soon as you can, so that you are up to date with your COVID-19 series this winter. Second, take your everyday preventive actions such as covering your coughs and sneezes, staying away from people who are sick and staying home if you yourself are sick, washing your hands and improving ventilation in your home and workplaces. We also encourage you to wear a high quality, well-fitting mask to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses, most especially for those in the 5% of the population currently living in counties with high COVID-19 community level. CDC continues to recommend masking for anyone choosing to travel by plane, train, bus or other form of public transportation, or for anyone who may be immunocompromised or increased risk of severe disease. Third, and finally, if you do get sick present to your provider for early care, there are prescription antivirals to treat both flu and COVID-19. And these treatments are especially important for people who are at higher risk of complications from respiratory disease. Talk to your health care provider as soon as you have symptoms, so that these treatments can be started within the first few days of illness when they are most effective. So, as we approach the holiday season, togetherness, family, community and connection are truly now more important than ever to achieve all of those things in good health. It’s critical. We all take the steps to protect both our ourselves and our loved ones. With that I’m grateful to have Dr. Fryhofer with me and we’ll turn things over to her. Thank you.

07:40

Thank you so much, Dr. Walensky. I’m Dr. Sandra Fryhofer, board chair at the American Medical Association. I’m also an internal medicine physician in Atlanta. I see patients in my office every day and I can tell you firsthand, this year’s flu season is off to a rough start. Flu is here. It started early. And with COVID and RSV also circulating it’s a perfect storm for a terrible holiday season. Over the last few years COVID protective measures also prevented spread of flu and other respiratory infections, but we’re really no longer in that bubble. And that’s why it’s so important to get vaccinated for both flu and COVID. And you can get both vaccines at the same time. I know everyone’s tired of getting shots. We all have booster fatigue. But understand. You could get really, really sick this year and ruin your holiday celebrations if you don’t get vaccinated. On a good note, this year’s flu vaccine formulation seems to be a good match to circulating viruses. It takes two weeks to build up protected antibodies, which is another reason to go ahead and get vaccinated now, this year all flu vaccinations are quadrivalent meaning they cover four strains of flu – two flu A’s and two flu B’s. And different flu strains can circulate within the same flu season. Right now, we’re seeing outbreaks of influenza type A and the only thing worse than getting flu once in a season is getting it again and you can so even if you’ve already had flu this season, you should still get vaccinated once you recover from the acute illness to keep you from getting it again with a different flu strain. Everyone six months and older needs flu vaccinations every year. Those at highest risk for severe flu complications include the very young, the very old people with chronic medical conditions and also pregnant people. And this year for the very first time, three specific vaccine products are now preferred for those aged 65 and older. These include two higher dose formulations BlueZone high dose and the recombinant flu vaccine flu block and also the adjuvant ID flu vaccine flu add the adjuvants added to improve immune response. But if one of those is not available, don’t wait. It’s better to get any flu shot, than no flu shot at all. Now, vaccines are not 100%. And that said, if you do get sick, even if you’ve been vaccinated call your physician, you may need an antiviral, go ahead and do a home test for COVID. You also will probably need to get tested for flu. There are specific antivirals for flu and specific antivirals for COVID. But flu antivirals don’t work for COVID and vice versa. And the only way to know for sure what you have is to get tested. It is going to be a confusing respiratory infection season. figuring out what’s making people sick is going to be a conundrum. So your best bet to stay well during the holidays is to get vaccinated for flu. And also make sure you’re up to date on COVID vaccination, which means getting that Omicron bivalient booster when you’re eligible. And please stay home when you’re sick. Share your love by not sharing your sickness this holiday season, please get vaccinated. It’s the best way to protect yourself. It’s the best way to protect your loved one’s loved ones, and it’s the best way to protect your community.

10:00

Thank you Dr. Walensky and Dr. Fryhofer. Fran, we are ready to take questions.

11:18

Thank you very much. If you would like to ask a question, please press star one. Please unmute your phone and record your name clearly when prompted, Your name is required to introduce your question. Our first is from Adriana Rodriguez with USA Today your line is open.

11:35

Hi, thank you so much for doing this and for taking my question. Outside of sort of the world of respiratory viruses. I’m looking at the UK their health agency had reported an uptick in strep a infections compared to pre pandemic years, and also reported six pediatric deaths. I was wondering if strep a was a concern here in the U.S. as well? Are we doing any sort of real time surveillance on these inspections? And if so, what does that say?

12:12

This is Dr. Walensky. Maybe I will start and then pass it over to the subject matter experts on my team and just say we have seen some outbreaks of streptococcal disease as well. Those tend to be more localized, but maybe defer to my team to see if they have anything more to add.

12:33

This is Barbara Mahon. We do have surveillance ongoing for invasive group A strep infections are the most severe infections that are found in the bloodstream or not just in the throat. And as far as I’m aware, we have not heard of an any notable increase. But we can check on that and confirm that with you.

13:02

Great, thank you.

13:03

Next question, please. Karen Lambman with Fox.

13:10

Hi there. Thanks for taking my question for having this conference. I we’re hearing a lot about disproportionately elevated pediatric hospitalizations. Due to RSV and flu. I’m just wondering how adult hospitalizations compare these if you have any data or context that you can share, to help people understand just how out of proportion. The adult burden of severe disease due to respiratory illness has also been this year.

13:34

I’m sure I will say over the last week we’ve since seen a rise in hospitalization from COVID-19, up about 15%, 15 to 20% week over week. So that’s the first step that we’ve seen related to COVID-19. Generally, when we see these increases, and as you know, increased rates of severe disease, for COVID-19, as well as for RSV and influenza in those over the age of 65. And much of those increased hospitalizations are related to those in the older age demographic and those with comorbidities. So, I would say even more reason to emphasize vaccination in those more vulnerable groups.

14:22

Next question, please. Emanuel John Milton with Bloomberg News.

14:28

Thanks for taking my call. So vaccination rates of black and Hispanic children appear to have improved from last year but vaccination rates for white children are dropped from last year and are down 7% from pre pandemic levels. So why are these? Why is the drop happening and how’s that being addressed by the CDC?

14:50

(Dr. Walensky) Maybe I’ll start and can defer to my team as well and say we have made a lot of intentional efforts not just in in COVID-19 vaccine, but in influenza and COVID 19 vaccine to bridge the demographic divide where we have seen it in vaccination rates across this country and again specifically in COVID. We have seen those not just in race and ethnicity but also in in regional and rural versus urban. And we’ve spent a lot of time and energy on that work. I think Dr. Fryhofer commented that there is now vaccine fatigue. And we have seen under vaccination in many diseases, not just an influenza and COVID 19, but also a drop in pediatric vaccinations as a whole. We’ve reported that from the CDC, we have intensive efforts working with communities working with the AMA, as we are here today working with the AMA and many other organizations, community-based organizations, trusted messengers and outreach to try and try and bridge many of the areas where we have low vaccination rates. I can defer to my team to see if they have more to add. But this is a lot of the hard work that we have ahead. And we actually also look to the media to help us share the stories of the challenges that happen when vaccinations are not administered.

16:15

(Dr. Fryhofer) This is Dr. Fryhofer. I wanted to also add that over the last two years with the COVID protective measures, you know, wearing masks washing our hands, staying isolated, we really had just almost non existent flu seasons. And so I think there was a there’s probably like a sense of complacency. We think we’ve forgotten how bad flu can be. But this year season is a shout out that it can get really bad and it’s here so people need to get vaccinated.

16:47

Next question, please. Spencer Kimball with CNBC.

16:53

Hi, thanks so much for doing the call. You mentioned that the children, the elderly, flu vaccination uptake is lower compared to last year. How much lower? I see the children’s data on the website. But I’m curious in particular about the elderly. And then the CDC have any data on vaccine efficacy yet? And finally, what are you anticipating for hospitalizations moving forward, given that we’re coming out of Thanksgiving and heading into Christmas? Thank you.

17:25

(Dr. Walensky) Thanks, Spencer. So in terms of pregnant women, we’ve seen lower vaccination coverage. Again, some of this is really just commercial, public private payers, so not all of it is coming into us uniformly. But we’ve seen lower coverage from pregnant women of about 12% lower than last season, children we’re seeing lower rates are about 5% lower than pre pandemic in terms of where we were at the same time last season. And just to be clear, people are continuing to get their flu shot. And it is really important that you do continue to get your flu shot because getting it now it’s certainly better than not getting it at all. And I can give you the numbers for where we are compared to those over the age of 65. We, of course look in real time as to how well we think the flu the influenza match is to what’s circulating right now the good news is that looks like it is a very good match. We have more definitive data later in the season, of course in the spring as to how we did. But I also want to emphasize even an imperfect matching season, we see 35% decreased rates of hospitalization, even when we don’t have a good match which really just emphasizes when we do have a good match how much more effective it will be. And of course so much of what we can anticipate in the season ahead. We do know so far that we have seen an early season both for influenza as well as for RSV. We do know that if we do a lot of the work now and people roll up their sleeves to get vaccinated, there is a lot that we can do to prevent severe disease. What we don’t know is what will happen in the weeks ahead. Thank you.

(Dr. Fryhofer) This is Dr. Fryhofer, also want to point out how important it is for pregnant women to get vaccinated. Mom getting her flu shot protects baby during those first few months of life when the baby’s too young to be vaccinated because we can’t vaccinate against flu until you’re six months old. So, just so important for particularly for pregnant women to go ahead and get vaccinated.

(Dr. Walensky) Yeah, thank you. That’s an essential point. If you’re not doing it for you do it for baby.

19:41

Next question.

19:43

I’m sorry, this is Barbara Mahon. I just want to add the same goes for COVID that pregnant women being vaccinated protects their babies for the first six months against hospitalization for COVID. And both of these vaccines are safe for pregnant women.

20:03

All right, next is from Mike Stobbe. With the Associated Press.

20:08

Hi, thank you for taking my call. And thanks for doing this. It’s really a question I was gonna ask guys, it’s been asked, but I should ask you there’s news out this morning that Pfizer is asking the FDA to authorize COVID You know, the the bivalent booster shot to be used as the third dose for kids five and under. I don’t think there’s been any announcement about Moderna. Do you have any information about? Are we going to see consideration or decision making from the federal government on bivalent shot for kids? Younger than five on Moderna? And also, what’s your anticipation of uptake of the Bible and booster the uptake has been pretty low in that age group? Could you tell us why and what your anticipation of uptake is going to be?

21:07

(Dr. Walensky) Mike, I’ll maybe I’ll start with that and say, obviously, I’m going to have to defer some of those questions to the FDA. But what I will say is to maybe go back to the second point that you’re making, which is, we have demonstrated through probably the most extensive vaccine safety system in this country’s history, the overwhelming safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines. Right now, I think one of the most important things that we can do is, especially as pediatric hospitals and parents are overwhelmed with this respiratory virus season is get children vaccinated for influenza. And for COVID, I will just give some statistics of that, you know, less than 5% of children, between the ages of two and four years old, are have completed their primary series. So I think that really this is a call to say, we need to keep those kids well, we need to keep them out of the hospital, the best way to do that is through vaccination with a primary series with a booster as well as with influenza.

22:19

Next question, please.

22:21

Fenit Nirappil with Washington Post.

22:25

Thanks for taking time. You mentioned earlier how if you’re in a high community level COVID-19 community level jurisdiction, you should consider masking. I’m wondering is it time to revisit the community levels which are focused on COVID And to make it more holistically look at respiratory viruses overall, like if you’re in a community without much COVID-19 and hospitals, but there’s a lot of RSD and flu isn’t that reason to be wearing a mask?

22:56

(Dr. Walensky) Yeah, I appreciate that question. It’s something that we are actively looking into at CDC. In the meantime, what I do want to say one need not take, wait for CDC action in order to put a mask on. So we do know that 5% of the population is living in places with a high COVID-19 community level –  we do encourage people to mask. We know that 32% of jurisdictions, our populations have areas with medium COVID-19 community levels. And so we would encourage all of those safe, preventive measures – hand washing, staying home when you’re sick, during masking, increased ventilation for during respiratory virus season, but especially in areas of high COVID-19 community levels. And we are exactly looking into the question you asked.

23:48

Next question.

23:50

Hilary Brueck with Insider.

23:54

Hi, thanks for taking my question. I wanted to ask, we’ve been hearing from some folks who are testing negative for various things, including, you know, some people who test negative for the flu and for COVID and for RSV and they’re feeling frustrated that they’re, you know, completely bulldozed by these respiratory effects infections that maybe they haven’t had in a few years. What would you say to those folks?

24:21

(Dr. Walensky) Dr. Fryhofer, you want to start with that one, and then I’ve seen coming behind you.

(Dr. Fryhofer) Sure. I think the people that are testing negative for flu COVID and RSV, should be very glad but understand those aren’t the only respiratory infections that are out there. People can still have regular colds, but all these things we’ve talked about masking, washing your hands, covering your cough, staying home if you’re sick, all those things can keep down the spread of all these respiratory infections. And you know, it’s it’s that time of year.

24:54

(Dr. Walensky) Yeah, maybe I will just add, you know, that we’ve always known colds and flu season is more than just flu. Now we have, of course, flu and RSV that are on people’s radars as well with COVID. But again, there are numerous other respiratory pathogens, viral pathogens that circulate this time of year. Turns out that the cold weather the gathering indoors, all of that is good for respiratory viruses and bad for symptoms. But what I would say is, you know, there are other pathogens out there, we want to make sure that we are on top of the ones that people can do something about that is prevention with vaccines, flu and COVID, for sure. And then intervention with antivirals, again, influenza and COVID. We want to make sure people know that they can do their injury prevention and treatment interventions for both of those.

25:48

Great, we have time for two more questions.

25:51

Sidney Spencer 11 Alive News Atlanta, WXIA.

25:56

Hi, thank you for taking my question. I wanted to ask, I know you mentioned there’s been a rise in hospitalizations, particularly for children. So we’ve seen that there’s been shortages of a lot of antibiotics and antivirals. So I was wondering, how’s that has? How has that? How would that has been affecting hospitals abilities to treat these patients? And also, I know you mentioned that we might ask for antivirals from our healthcare providers. Can we always expect those to be available? If we do need to get those?

26:29

Yeah, maybe I’ll start and say CDC is aware of the reports of some of the shortages for both antivirals as well as antibiotics across the country. I know FDA is working and manufacturers, and working with manufacturers, to try and explore what can be done to address this. I do also want to put in a plug at this point and some of those are outpatient antibiotics and outpatient antivirals, as well. And I think important now, to put in a plug for responsible antibiotic stewardship here. We do know that there’s often an overuse of antibiotics, especially in the case where people are coming in with a viral sickness where the antibiotics won’t be helpful in that case. So we are working to explore what can be done as is FDA, but importantly, we’re asking physicians also to practice responsible antibiotic stewardship in this case. Thank you.

27:26

And our final question, Elaina Block with USA.

27:31

Hi, there. I wanted to ask regarding the 14 pediatric cases that ended in deaths, the influenza cases, what do we know about the demographics and about whether or not they were vaccinated for influenza? Thank you.

27:49

(Dr. Walensky) That’s a good question. I don’t have the details of that. I wonder if anyone on my team does and if not, we can get back with you to the extent that we received them at CDC.

28:01

(Lynnette Brammer) Yeah, this is one that I mean, in general. Right now. We don’t have the information. On vaccination rates. Much of that information is still missing. But very consistently year to year, approximately 80% of the pediatric deaths are unvaccinated.

28:27

Thank you, Dr. Walensky and Dr. Fryhofer and thank you all for joining us today. If there are further questions, please contact the CDC media office at 404-639-3286 or you can email media@cdc.gov.  Thank you.

28:46

Conference has now concluded again thank you for your participation please disconnect at this time.

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Refreshing the Media Lions for Cannes Lions 2023

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Rethink Toronto conducted an anonymous social experiment: to prove that when people think of ketchup, they think of Heinz. They asked people to simply “draw ketchup”, and sure enough, 97% of them drew the iconic Heinz Ketchup bottle. Then they turned those drawings into a global campaign, featuring them in high-impact out-of-home, newspaper print, in social, and in a :30s TV spot — even replacing the real bottle labels.

The campaign drew attention from news outlets across the globe, generating 127x publicity vs. initial investment. Heinz saw an immediate impact in sales with an increase of 10%. Spanning 18 countries from the UK, to Ireland, Greece, Germany, and Brazil Heinz saw their social engagement rate soar to 1495% above average. 97% of the participants in the campaign drew Heinz. And in Canada, where the brand has seen declines in brand affinity, Heinz reclaimed its status in the hearts and minds of Canadians.

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VIU Media Highlights: December 7, 2022 | News | Vancouver Island University | Canada – Vancouver Island University News

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The giving spirit, global learning opportunities & holiday events 🎄

As we enter the winter season, the spirit of giving is strong at VIU, as you can see by our top story below. If you have any questions, please reach out to us.

Top stories

VIU Foundation’s Giving Tuesday campaign raises more than $500,000

Students at Vancouver Island University will have fewer financial worries this season after a huge outpouring of support through the VIU Foundation’s Giving Tuesday campaign. Learn more.

From climate change to fish kills: innovative chemisty research

Access to clean air, water and food is critical to the quality of life in Canada. Dr. Erik Krogh, a VIU Chemistry Professor, is expanding the frontiers of mass spectrometry to develop real-time measurements of emerging contaminants. His research will help address air quality and climate change as well as monitor pollution in water and soil. Read more.

Student gets prestigious research internship in Germany

Angelina Jaeger worked on research that ultimately aims to create a material with a similar texture and properties to human tissue, that is easy to make and use. She’s also been working for VIU’s Applied Environmental Research Lab – two very unique opportunities for an undergraduate student. Read more.

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My semester abroad in Norway

Child and Youth Care student Sarah Osborne is just wrapping up a unique study abroad adventure in Norway, where she took the friluftsliv program (outdoor studies) at the Norwegian School of Sport Studies. Her semester included learning how to harvest seafood, navigate and connect with nature, kayaking and camping. Read more.

Campus events

Student art sale

Every year, Visual Art students host a sale at the View Gallery to sell/showcase their works for people. Come pick up one-of-a-kind artworks and gifts for the holidays on December 14. Learn more.

Milner Christmas Magic

This annual event hosted by VIU’s Milner Gardens & Woodland offers visitors a dazzling experience walking through thousands of twinkling lights strung along the garden paths, and includes festive window displays within the historic Milner House and charming Gardener’s Cottage. Read more.

VIU in the news

National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women Vigil

Eliza Gardiner, Chair of the Status of Women committee, spoke with Gregor Craigie on CBC’s On the Coast morning show about the vigil held yesterday to honour and remember the 14 young women who were murdered in the 1989 massacre at École Polytechnique. The committee also organized a panel presentation on women in non-traditional occupations. Listen to the interview.

Watch: The “Invasive Species Guy” on protecting BC’s biodiversity

VIU Natural Resource Protection student Hunter Jarratt is passionate about raising awareness about invasive species. He has TikTok and Instagram channels devoted to raising awareness about how people can help protect BC’s native plants and animals.Read more in the Times Colonist.

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