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Expand chart
Data: CDC; Chart: Baidi Wang/Axios

Throughout the pandemic, sports have often been at the forefront of America's response. That remains true as 2022 approaches — though health experts are split on how leagues are handling Omicron's spread.

Driving the news: The NFL responded to a recent surge in cases by limiting, rather than expanding, testing protocols. Moving forward, fully vaccinated players will only be tested if they show symptoms.

  • The cynical view: Tests mean cases, cases mean postponements, and postponements are bad for the bottom line. So, the league opted for less testing.
  • Another way to look at it: The NFL's approach hints at how most of society will come to view the pandemic and the risks facing vaccinated people, particularly if the early data is right and Omicron causes less severe disease.

What they're saying: While the NBA has different rules than the NFL, it has sent a similar message with its handling of the Omicron wave, which has seen 100 players enter protocols this month.

  • "This virus will not be eradicated, and we're going to have to learn to live with it," NBA commissioner Adam Silver told ESPN on Tuesday, adding that there are "no plans" to pause the season.
  • In fact, with Omicron constituting 90% of cases, Silver said the league is considering shortening the number of days a player can be out in protocols before returning to the court.
  • Silver said he hopes the NBA — which is 97% vaccinated and 65% boosted — can show the rest of the world a way forward "as this virus becomes part of our lives."

The other side: The NFL may be fine knowing that vaccinated players with asymptomatic cases are walking the halls of team facilities and playing in games. But its protocols ignore the reality that those players go out into the world, where people are more at risk.

  • "There's going to be a time where we want the NFL to demonstrate ... that we can start taking a different road," epidemiologist Michael Mina told WashPost. "But I don't think, in the face of Omicron, that now is the time to do that."
  • Of note: The NHL has taken the most cautious approach, pausing its season two days earlier than planned. Teams will break for the holidays today and return on Sunday.

The big picture: The Biden administration is weighing a potentially "stark shift in messaging" that would — much like the NFL and NBA — focus on living with the virus, rather than beating it, CNN reports.

  • "We're getting to the point now where ... it's about severity," Xavier Becerra, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, told reporters last week. "It's not about cases."
  • "Sports leagues have made it as clear as possible that in an Omicron age, their future depends on making peace with the virus," writes NY Mag's Will Leitch. "That future looks increasingly like our own."

Go deeper: What to do about Omicron over the holidays

Go deeper

Updated 16 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Transplants rebound from COVID lull
  2. Vaccines: WHO: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America
  3. Politics: Government website for free COVID tests launches early
  4. World: Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older
  5. Variant tracker

University of Michigan reaches $490M settlement in sex abuse case

Jon Vaughn, a former University of Michigan and NFL football player, speaks at a press conference in Ann Arbor, Mich., in June 2021. Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

The University of Michigan on Wednesday reached a $490 million settlement with over a thousand survivors who allege that they were sexually assaulted by a former physician in the school's athletic department.

Driving the news: "It's been a long and challenging journey and these survivors have refused to remain silent," attorney Parker Stinar said Wednesday.

4 hours ago - Technology

3D printing's next act: big metal objects

Chief Scientist Andy Bayramian makes modifications to the laser system on Seurat's 3D metal printer. Photo courtesy of Seurat Technologies.

A new metal 3D printing technology could revolutionize the way large industrial products like planes and cars are made, reducing the cost and carbon footprint of mass manufacturing.

Why it matters: 3D printing — also called additive manufacturing — has been used since the 1980s to make small plastic parts and prototypes. Metal printing is newer, and the challenge has been figuring out how to make things like large car parts faster and cheaper than traditional methods.