Home United States USA — Sport NBC’s play-by-play coverage for the Beijing Olympics will be mostly remote.

NBC’s play-by-play coverage for the Beijing Olympics will be mostly remote.


Australia releases the reasoning by judges for approving the expulsion of the tennis star Novak Djokovic. Some U.S. states are easing requirements for substitute …
Australia releases the reasoning by judges for approving the expulsion of the tennis star Novak Djokovic. Some U.S. states are easing requirements for substitute teachers to help close staffing gaps because of Omicron. President Biden urged schools to draw on federal funds. NBC’s play-by-play coverage for the Beijing Olympics will be mostly remote. France, with an election approaching, sets a timeline to lift pandemic restrictions. Australia releases the court ruling that upheld Novak Djokovic’s expulsion over his lack of vaccination. Omicron was probably in N.Y.C. well before the first U.S. case was detected, wastewater data suggest. Some states in the U.S. are taking desperate measures to avoid closing schools. A South African study of infected zoo lions spurs worries about the virus spreading in the wild. Live from Stamford, Connecticut, it’s the 2022 Beijing Olympics! Or so NBC could say about its play-by-play teams for the upcoming Winter Games, following word that all of its sports announcers will call the action from the network’s studios rather than on-site because of concerns about the Omicron variant of the coronavirus and restrictions in place in China for those covering the Olympics. The news, first reported by USA Today and confirmed by NBC on Thursday, was not exactly a surprise, since the vast majority of NBC’s announcing teams for sports other than the marquee ones of figure skating and Alpine skiing were already planning to work remotely. Indeed, many other recent major sporting events, including last summer’s Tokyo Games, have featured announcers who are hundreds or even thousands of miles away from the games. Still, the announcement offered the latest reminder of how fluid and unpredictable even the most highly choreographed of events have been in the pandemic era. Case in point: NBC’s Olympic host, Mike Tirico, will be in Beijing for the Feb.4 opening ceremony and the first few days of the Winter Games. He will then leave to cover the Feb.13 Super Bowl outside Los Angeles, and it is unclear whether he will return to Beijing for the closing ceremony on Feb.20. “We’re going to continue to adjust our plans as the situation warrants,” said Greg Hughes, senior vice president of communications for NBC Sports. About 250 NBC personnel are already in Beijing to work the games. NBC had also hoped to send a broadcasting crew of less than 10, and a couple of dozen support staff, to cover figure skating, Alpine skiing and snowboarding. But now those personnel will join more than 1,000 people who will be working in Stamford, around the clock, to broadcast the games, just as they did during the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, Korea. Even in the run-up to the games, the prospect of being in Beijing had worried some prominent athletes. Tara Lipinski, the former Olympic figure skating champion who has become one of NBC’s best-known commentators, told an interviewer that “I would feel very nervous” if she had been an athlete preparing for Beijing because of Covid-19. “It’s even being worried about getting there, as you mentioned, because I have holed myself up in this house,” Lipinski said. “If I test positive, I can’t go to nationals, I can’t go to the Olympics. But imagine what’s at stake for these athletes that have worked their whole life for this moment.” — David W. Chen The French government set a timeline on Thursday to lift the country’s Covid-19 restrictions over the next few weeks, as pandemic indicators in France show tentative signs of improvement and a presidential election looms in April. Jean Castex, the French prime minister, said at a news conference that there was a “clear ebbing” of the wave of coronavirus cases attributable to the Delta variant, as well as preliminary indications that another surge of cases linked to the Omicron variant was slowing down in the areas where it struck first, like the region around Paris. “This exceptional wave is not over, but the situation is starting to evolve more favorably,” Mr. Castex said. France has averaged more than 300,000 new cases a day over the past week, and reported 525,000 cases on Monday, the most known cases in a single day since the pandemic began. There are more than 27,000 Covid-19 patients in hospitals around the country, but the number in intensive care units has declined in the past few days, from a peak of nearly 4,000 patients last week. Mr. Castex announced that the easing of restrictions in February would be done in stages. First to go will be outdoor mask mandates, capacity limits in public establishments and mandatory work-from-home rules for some companies, he said. By the middle of February, when the government said it expected the Omicron surge to peak, night clubs will be allowed to reopen and people will once again be allowed to eat and drink in settings like movie theaters and stadiums. “We must be confident, while remaining vigilant,” Mr. Castex said. Starting Monday, he said, France will begin enforcing a rule barring most people who do not show proof of full vaccination or recent recovery from Covid from entering public establishments like bars, restaurants and museums. The government has not said specifically when that restriction would end, only that officials would wait to consider doing so until after the pressure on hospitals has lessened significantly. “We will apply the vaccine pass as long as necessary, but no longer than necessary,” Olivier Véran, the French health minister, said at the news conference. In a report published this week, the scientific council that advises the French government on Covid-19 was cautious, saying that the Omicron surge was not over and that “its impact on the health system will remain high, but partly manageable, until mid-March.” The council warned that social distancing rules would remain paramount, and it urged the authorities to put more resources into detecting cases in schools, where there is “very active circulation” of the virus. The government has taken pride in keeping schools open despite the surge. Teachers and school employees across France staged protests on Thursday over what they say is a lack of equipment needed to keep classrooms safe, like air-quality monitors and highly protective masks. The protests were notably smaller than the large walkouts by teachers’ unions last week over the same issue. After last week’s demonstrations, the government promised to distribute five million FFP2 masks — the European equivalent of N95 — and to hire thousands of substitute teachers. The teachers’ unions have also been angered by recent revelations that the education minister was vacationing on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza while a contested new testing protocol for schools was taking shape. — Aurelien Breeden The Federal Court of Australia on Thursday released the ruling of a three-judge panel that supported the immigration minister’s revocation of Novak Djokovic’s visa, revealing for the first time the judges’ reasoning. The minister’s justifications for revoking the visa were not “irrational or illogical or not based on relevant material,” the ruling said. The minister had argued that Mr. Djokovic’s position as a role model who chose to remain unvaccinated against Covid-19 could “foster anti-vaccination sentiment.” The court’s decision, which ended Mr. Djokovic’s chance of winning a record 21st men’s Grand Slam title in Melbourne this year, concluded a volatile saga that prompted debate over immigration law, celebrity entitlement and Covid vaccinations. “An iconic world tennis star may influence people of all ages, young or old, but perhaps especially the young and the impressionable, to emulate him,” the panel of three judges found. “This is not fanciful; it does not need evidence.” Once held up as an example of how nations could keep Covid cases low, Australia is now tackling its most severe surge since the pandemic began. The court noted the broad authority of the immigration minister, Alex Hawke, to control entry into the country and found he was well within his rights to cancel Mr. Djokovic’s visa on the grounds of “health and good order.” The legal question, the judges said, was not whether Mr. Djokovic actually posed a risk to health, safety and good order to the country, but whether Mr. Hawke was “satisfied” that his presence in the country might amount to one. Though Mr. Hawke did not have to provide his reasons for canceling Mr. Djokovic’s visa, the judgment said they were “carefully drafted,” and showed that he had exercised the discretionary power lawfully. Mr. Djokovic accepted the decision and left the country, returning on Monday to his home in Serbia. — Isabella Kwai Omicron was probably present in New York City’s wastewater more than a week before the first case of the new variant was detected in the United States, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and researchers across the country. The samples suggest that someone in New York City may have had the Omicron variant as early as Nov.21, four days before South African scientists first announced cases of the variant and ten days before the first U.S. case was reported. Researchers in California and Texas also found evidence of Omicron in wastewater samples from late November. The findings suggest that at the time, the Omicron variant was more widespread in the United States than the case data alone would indicate, and provide more evidence that wastewater surveillance can serve as an early warning system about the spread of new variants. “At first it was uncertain whether this variant was going to come to the United States,” said Alexandria Boehm, an environmental engineer at Stanford and an author of the paper. “The wastewater answered that question way before the clinical samples could, and the answer was yes.” The research does not provide conclusive evidence that Omicron was present in these cities. The virus present in wastewater is fragmented, and while the researchers detected many of Omicron’s telltale mutations, the findings do not prove that they were all present on the same genome. Still, the results are highly suggestive, and are consistent with what scientists have learned about how quickly Omicron spreads and where it was likely to pop up first, said Amy Kirby, the program lead for the C.D.C.’s National Wastewater Surveillance System and an author of the paper. “I don’t think anyone is surprised to see a new variant show up in a major city like New York first,” she said. A team of scientists from several institutions — John Dennehy at Queens College, Monica Trujillo at Queensborough Community College, Davida Smyth at Texas A&M University and Marc Johnson at the University of Missouri — have been tracking the coronavirus in New York City’s wastewater since the summer of 2020. The team typically collects samples weekly and then sequences the virus they find. The scientists collected one of their routine samples on Nov.21 and sent it for sequencing two days later. By the time they got the results, in early December, the Omicron news had broken, and they “immediately recognized” the new variant’s distinct mutations, Dr. Dennehy said. Dr. Boehm’s team took a different approach in California, using P.C.R. tests capable of detecting some of Omicron’s specific mutations. They got their first hit on Nov.

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