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High school sports roundup: La Crosse Aquinas baseball continues hot start with win over Caledonia



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May 7—The Aquinas High School baseball team pulled away from Caledonia with a four-run fifth inning on its way to an 8-2 nonconference win at Holy Cross Field on Thursday.

The Blugolds (6-0) kept a powerful offense rolling against Tate Meiners by scoring eight earned runs on eight hits and six walks over 4 2/3 innings with a patient approach that led to good pitches to hit.

Right fielder Michael Leum was 3 for 3 with five RBI, and first baseman Jared Everson 3 for 3 with a double and three runs scored for Aquinas. Chris Wilson and Nolan Hargrove held the Warriors (7-2), who had won seven straight games, to single runs in the sixth and seventh.

Third baseman Riley Klar doubled and drove in two runs for the Blugolds, who are averaging 13.2 runs per game.

TOMAH — The Timberwolves (3-1, 1-0) grabbed an early lead then won late in an error-filled game.

The Spartans (0-1, 0-1), who committed six errors, scored one run in the top of the first, but Tomah, which committed four errors, responded with three in the bottom of the inning and added one in the second.

Sparta tied the game at 5-5 by scoring two in the sixth, but the Timberwolves scored the winning run in the bottom of the inning.

Evan Long led Tomah at the plate with a home run and two RBI. He also started on the mound and allowed five runs — two earned — on nine hits and struck out eight in five innings.

Drew Brookman, who also drove in a run, threw two scoreless innings of relief and picked up the win.

The Hilltoppers (2-4, 2-0) scored five runs in the fifth and four more in the sixth to propel themselves to victory.

August Brandt was 3 for 4 with a double and two RBI for Onalaska, which had 12 hits. Teammates Michael Savarin and Bryce Hoeft added 3-for-4 and 2-for-2 performances for the Hilltoppers. Evan Winkler pitched four innings for the win.

Daybe Hoff was 3 for 3 with a double and two RBI, and Curtis Leaver went 2 for 3 with a double and RBI for the Rangers (0-1, 0-1).

West Salem 15, Onalaska Luther 2

West Salem 7, Onalaska Luther 6

ONALASKA — Brett McConkey allowed only two hits and struck out five in Game 1, while McConkey, CJ McConkey, Chris Calico, Zach Hutchinson, Luke Noel and Carson Koepnick all drove in runs for the Panthers.

Dillon Yang and Logan Bahr drove in a run apiece for the Knights, while Tim Seiler was charged with the loss. He gave up nine runs on seven hits in three innings.

West Salem was balanced at the plate in Game 2, with Koepnick and Gavin Holst driving in two apiece and Calico driving in one.

Luther rallied to tie the game at 6 in the seventh inning, but the Panthers won in the bottom of the inning.

Koepnick picked up the win, despite allowing three runs on three hits in one inning.

Yang drove in two for the Knights in that seventh-inning rally, but he allowed one run on two hits in one-third inning and was charged with the loss.

WESTBY — The Norsemen scored five runs in the bottom of the first inning in the first game, but the Raiders scored three times in the first and three more in the third. Westby cut a two-run deficit to the final margin in the seventh inning but stranded the tying run at second base.

Alex Madden was 4 for 4 with a double and three RBI and Carson Pehler 2 for 4 with a double, a home run and two RBI for Arcadia. Gavin Bergdahl and Cale Griffin had two hits apiece for Westby, which received a double and three RBI from Garrett Vatland.

The Raiders also stranded the tying run at second base during the seventh inning of the second game.

Pehler was 3 for 4 with two doubles, and Ryan Sukup drove in two runs for Arcadia in the second game. Vatland, who drove in a seventh-inning run, and Garrison Korn were both 2 for 4 for the Norsemen. Bo Milutinovich also drove in a run for Westby in the seventh.

VIROQUA — Senior Evan Hubatch was 3 for 3 in the first game and 2 for 3 in the second for the Blackhawks (5-1, 4-0), who ran their winning streak to four games by sweeping the Red Hawks.

Clayton Slack was 3 for 4 in the first game and the winning pitcher of the second. Kamden Oliver was 2 for 3 for Viroqua in the second game.

Melrose-Mindoro 5, Whitehall 3 (9)

WHITEHALL — Tucker Sbraggia was 2 for 3 with two RBI, and Zach Kastenschmidt, who drew two walks and was hit by a pitch, scored three runs.

Bryson Gasch struck out 10 and picked up the win as the Mustangs improved to 5-1 overall and 5-0 in the conference.

Blair-Taylor 12, Eleva-Strum 8

BLAIR — Cain Fremstad was 3 for 5 with three RBI, while Bryan Rogstad and Matt Waldera were both 3 for 4 with two RBI.

Rogstad also scored three runs and had two doubles.

De Soto 15, Kickapoo/La Farge 3 (5)

LA FARGE, Wis. — Aiden Brosinski, Josh Boardman and Vin Buchner had two hits apiece, and Gabe Walz drove in three runs for the PIrates (5-0, 5-0), who put the game away with four runs in the fourth and four more in the fifth.

De Soto hit four doubles and scored at least twice in every inning to make a strong pitching start by Brock Taylor stand up. Taylor allowed two earned runs on five hits and struck out three without walking a batter over four innings.

Bryce Grell also drove in two runs and pitched the last inning for the Pirates.

The RiverHawks built an early lead with four runs in the top of the first and two more in the third as they improved to 3-1 overall and 2-1 in the conference.

The Rangers (1-3, 1-3) struck back with three runs in the bottom of the third, but Central answered with three in the fourth to extend its lead to 9-3.

Junior Macy Cagle and freshman Emily Larson led the RiverHawks at the plate, each with two hits and three RBI. Sophomore Santanna Carranza drove in two runs, while senior Whitney Mislivecek drove in one.

Larson allowed five runs — three earned — on six hits in five innings to pick up the win, and Cagle gave up two runs in two innings of relief.

Adrianna Lien led Logan with two hits and three RBI, while Chariell Butler and Jazzy Davis each hit a home run.

Onalaska 16, Sparta 1 (4)

SPARTA — Center fielder Cokie Binegar was 3 for 3 with a double, a walk, two stolen bases and four runs scored for the Hilltoppers (4-2, 3-1), who finished the game by scoring six runs in the third and five in the fourth.

Second baseman Bella Zimmer was 2 for 3 with five RBI, and shortstop Emerald Olson went 2 for 3 with three runs scored. Right fielder Lydia Schultz also drove in three runs for Onalaska, which received one-hit pitching and four strikeouts from Ava Smith.

TOMAH — Senior Jayda Staige hit a home run in the third inning and went 2 for 3 with three RBI for the Vikings (4-2, 3-0), who remained unbeaten and held sole possession of first place in the conference.

Shortstop Sydney Jahr was 3 for 4 with two runs scored and an RBI, and junior third baseman Emily Szak was 2 for 4 with two RBI for Holmen.

Staige also pitched six innings and allowed two earned runs on seven hits and five walks while striking out seven.

ARCADIA — A three-run bottom of the fifth inning helped the Raiders hold off the Panthers’ three-run rally in the top of the seventh.

West Salem scored all three of those runs after two outs were recorded, and they came on three singles and a couple of walks. Junior Maggie Marshall and senior Kendall Gerke each picked up their second hit of the game in the seventh, and Erica Spinler delivered the big hit with a two-run single.

Senior center fielder Chloe Halverson was 3 for 4, scored twice and stole five bases for Arcadia (3-2, 3-0). Casidi Pehler added two hits and three stolen bases for the Raiders, who swiped 12.

Catherine Pehler drove in two runs for Arcadia, which snapped a two-game losing streak.

Black River Falls 7, Viroqua 2

VIROQUA — The Blackhawks (0-5, 0-3) tied the game at 2 in the bottom of the third, but the Tigers (3-1, 3-0) scored one run in each of the next three innings to reclaim the lead.

Mady Schultz, who struck out nine and also hit a home run, picked up the win.

Whitney Skrede drove in two runs to lead Viroqua.

Westby 2, Onalaska Luther 0

ONALASKA — Jayda Berg was 2 for 3 at the plate and also threw a no-hitter for the Norsemen (4-0, 3-0).

Berg totaled 13 strikeouts and was two walks away from a perfect game.

Westby scored one run in the first and one in the fourth, while the Knights (1-3, 0-3) made two errors.

Aubrey Palubicki, who allowed two runs — one earned — on six hits and struck out seven in seven innings, was charged with the loss.

ELROY, Wis. — Aliyah Langrehr struck out 12 and allowed only two hits as the Cardinals improved to 4-0 overall and in the conference.

Freshman Emma Fortier drove in the game’s first run in the top of the fifth after senior Haley Jones doubled to lead off the inning.

Bangor added three runs in the seventh; Taylor Jacobson drove in one and Nora Tucker drove in two.

Blair-Taylor 24, Eleva-Strum 2 (5)

BLAIR — The Wildcats (7-0, 6-0) broke the game open with 15 runs in the bottom of the second.

Abby Thompson was 3 for 3 with a double and three RBI, while Lexi Lofgren also drove in three runs. Sydney Smith was 2 for 3 with a triple and two RBI, while McKenna Boe drove in two.

Lindsay Steien had two hits and also earned the win. She allowed two runs on four hits and struck out 12 in five innings pitched.

Winona Cotter 19, Caledonia/Spring Grove 2 (4)

Winona Cotter 5, Caledonia/Spring Grove 4

WINONA — The Warriors had just five hits in Game 1, and Ashly Ideker and Tayler Kohlmeier drove in their only runs.

Caledonia/Spring Grove grabbed an early lead in Game 2 with two runs in the bottom of the first, but the Ramblers scored two in the fourth and three in the fifth.

Dana Augedahl had two RBI for the Warriors in the second game.

Lindsey Lettner was 3 for 4, and Genna O’Neill 3 for 5 with a pair of doubles for the victorious Red Hawks (1-2). O’Neill was also the winning pitcher for G-E-T after striking out nine and walking five.

Bri Bahr was 2 for 3 with a double and triple, and Gracie Cronk 2 for 4 with a triple. Iris Neve also doubled and went 2 for 3 for Aquinas (0-4).

ONALASKA — Abby Heiderscheit scored five goals for the RiverHawks (1-1, 1-1), who also got three goals from Lily Wehrs and two assists and a goal from Kate Heiderscheit.

Abby Heiderscheit and Wehrs combined for five goals in the first half as Central built a 7-0 lead.

The Rangers fell to 0-2 overall and in the conference.

ONALASKA — Senior Olivia Gamoke scored six goals and assisted on another as the Hilltoppers improved to 2-0 overall and in the conference.

Kiya Bronston added two goals and two assists, Amaya Thesing had two assists and a goal, and Makena Mathy had a goal and an assist.

Malory Russ scored both goals for the Spartans (0-2, 0-2).

Emma Kujawa made three saves for Onalaska, and Valeria Pahumba Lemus 20 for Sparta.

HOLMEN — The Vikings earned their first win of the season behind two goals and an assist from Kayla Allen.

Holmen (1-1, 1-1) also got goals from Nora Lee and Megan Mumaw-Flury, while Hannah Reick made 12 saves.

The Timberwolves, who received goals from Mariah Pierce, Ryley Winrich and Zoey Dvorak, fell to 1-1 overall and in the conference. Shani Tiber and Emma Brandvig had assists for Tomah.

SPARTA — The Logan boys and girls won team championships by comfortable margins over second-place Mauston.

The Rangers were helped in the boys competition by sophomore Avin Smith, who won the 110 hurdles (17.15) and 300 hurdles (44.47). Junior Ryan Bye won the high jump (5-10), , junior Martell Owens the shot put (46-8) and senior Caden Korn the discus (120-0). Freshman Wyatt Peterson won the 100 (33.0) and shot put (13-7) in the wheelchair division.

Smith was also second in the triple jump (37-6) and Korn second in the shot put (40-5) while Logan won the 400 relay (47.97) and 1,600 relay (3:54.06).

Brookwood’s Dan Peterson won the 200 (24.38) and 400 (54.24).

Junior Kalli Knoble was a triple winner for the Logan girls with victories in the 100 hurdles (17.11), 300 hurdles (49.23) and high jump (5-4). Senior teammate Lauren Boge added wins in the long jump (16-0) and triple jump (31-0).

Senior Avery Trohkimoinen (200, 27.7)junior Ashley Janisch (800, 2;45.26), junior Ellie Haverland (1,600, 6:00.52) and sophomore Mai See Xiong (pole vault, 7-0) also won for the Rangers.

The West Salem boys and girls won with respective team scores of 131 1/2 and 144, while Holmen’s teams placed second (117 and 111).

The Panthers’ boys won four events, including the top three finishers in the 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs.

Freshman Brennan Garbers won the 1,600 in 4 minutes, 51.38 seconds, while juniors Max Wolf (4:53.52) and Vincent Schwarz (4:55.27) were close behind. Senior Brady Niemeier won the 3,200 in 10:59.94, sophomore Dawson Gronemus (11:09.07) was second and senior Charlie McKinney (11:10.67) was third.

West Salem senior Nathan Gribble won the shot put (53 feet, 3 3/4 inches), while the Panthers’ 4×100 team of freshman Abram Lassen, freshman Carter Walter, junior Orin Schwier and senior Adam Gorski won the event (52.95 seconds), which no other team finished.

West Salem also totaled nine second-place finishers to help counterattack five first-place finishes by the Vikings.

Holmen senior Tanner Groshek won the 800 (2:05.92), junior Ty Leeser won the 110 hurdles (17.61 seconds), junior Max LeClaire won the high jump (6 feet), and senior Kaden Banks won the discus (166 feet, 11 inches).

The Vikings’ 1,600 relay team of Groshek, senior Bennett Gunderson, senior Joseph Mally and sophomore Gillie Suarez won the event in 3:43.35.

Onalaska senior Landon Peterson won the 100 (11.31) and the 300 hurdles (39.15), while Central sophomore Bennett Fried won the 400 (53.13) and the long jump (19-3 1/4 ).

Central’s boys finished third as a team (50), and Onalaska was fourth (40 1/2 ).

West Salem’s girls won 10 events, including the top three finishers in the high jump and pole vault and the top two in the 300 hurdles.

Sophomore Genevieve Merkel-Sprain won the high jump (4-8), while sophomore Morgan Kammel and senior Emily Sanwick followed at 4-6.

Freshman Emily Fechner and sophomore Macy Tauscher each cleared 8 feet in the pole vault, and junior Tessa Deal cleared 7 feet.

Senior Maddie Wopat — who also won the long jump (14-2 1/2 ) and the triple jump (30-1 1/2 ) — won the 300 hurdles (52.86), and Kammel was second in 56.33 seconds. Kammel also won the 100 hurdles in 18.47.

The Panthers also got victories from junior Molly Roberts (400, 1:10.68), sophomore Alena Donahue (800, 2:39) and sophomore Morgan Quackenbush (3,200, 13:17.99), while their 3,200 relay team of Donahue, Quackenbush, junior Anna Bohnsack and senior Emma Clements won the event in 11:40.99.

The Vikings got victories from junior Kamryn McNally (100, 13.16) and senior Rayna Baumgarn (discus, 85-2), while their 400 relay team of McNally, senior Abigail Molstad, junior Hailey Brueggen and freshman Josie Alesch won the event in 54.71.

Central senior Psalm Woody won the 200 (28.11) and was part of two relay victories. The RiverHawks’ 800 relay team of Woody, senior Libby Mickelson, freshman Adeline Marcou-Smart and junior Ncaylee Niemann won the event in 1:55.93, and their 1,600 relay team of Woody, Mickelson, sophomore River Fife and freshman Kya Smith won the event in 4:45.89.

Central’s girls finished third as a team (72), and Onalaska was fourth (29).


Leveraging Health Care Reform To Address Underinsurance In Working Families




Leveraging Health Care Reform To Address Underinsurance In Working Families

The signing of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in March 2021 delivered a sweeping piece of legislation supporting families just as we reached the one-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US. The $1.9 trillion package includes a number of measures that provide direct support to families, including several new provisions that make historic strides to reduce childhood poverty. Also within the ARPA are many provisions on health insurance coverage focused on making coverage options for individuals and families more affordable as the country emerges from the pandemic.

As necessary as the ARPA’s coverage provisions and other federal pandemic relief packages have been, they do not address fundamental weaknesses in family and dependent health insurance coverage that have worsened in recent years. In building on employer-based insurance and the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) health insurance Marketplaces, the ARPA maintains the status quo for “underinsured” children and families with health insurance coverage that fails to protect them financially, offers robust pediatric benefits, or guarantees access to appropriate provider networks to support comprehensive pediatric care.

This blog post explores what this vulnerability means for dependent coverage in particular, including how our own research shows that working parents have been seeking alternatives to employer-based dependent coverage for years. Future reforms need to focus on the challenges that underinsurance poses to families, which may mean difficult conversations about the role and future of employer-based insurance in its current form.

Pandemic Relief Builds On Private Health Insurance Without Addressing Its Shortcomings For Families

Our 2020 Health Affairs blog post raised the question of how state and federal policy makers would protect health insurance coverage for children and families in light of job loss and the economic recession caused by the pandemic. The ARPA is an important, albeit imperfect, step toward closing this gap. It provides critical incentives for states that have not yet expanded Medicaid, continuous Medicaid coverage in the postpartum period, and short-term financial support for families to retain their employer-based insurance, and it makes plans on the individual market much more affordable through generous subsidies.

Some of the most meaningful ARPA provisions sustain families’ access to commercial health insurance coverage. Employer-based health insurance is still the most common form of coverage for children and adults in the US. Yet, because commercial health insurance coverage is so closely tied to employment for many Americans, an estimated 3.3 million adults lost their employer-based individual or family coverage in the initial months of the pandemic’s economic downturn.

The ARPA offers some time-limited relief for families beset by job loss by breathing new life into the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), a law that lets workers continue to purchase their employer-based coverage after losing their job. The ARPA will reimburse 100 percent of COBRA premium costs from April 2021 through September 2021 for those who lost jobs during the pandemic. Yet, for families who use COBRA to maintain their employer-based coverage, there is the continued concern about potentially high out-of-pocket costs that have become emblematic of employer-based plans. Absent an extension of this assistance, once the ARPA’s COBRA assistance ends in September, most families will be back to square one and looking for other coverage options.

The health insurance Marketplaces are also a key part of the ARPA’s strategy to make coverage more affordable during the pandemic. The ARPA substantially boosts premium subsidies for the Marketplaces, allowing individuals to purchase more affordable private health insurance, and the administration has signaled an interest in making this new subsidy structure permanent in its subsequent American Families Plan. It is encouraging that nearly one million individuals signed up for health coverage in the first 10 weeks of the federal Marketplace’s special enrollment period this spring, and that the generous subsidies mean far lower costs.

Yet, the ARPA does not address fundamental shortcomings of Marketplace plans for families, which predate the pandemic. Pediatric (and adult) benefit packages within Marketplace plans are generally far less comprehensive than state Medicaid programs that provide comprehensive early and periodic screening, diagnostic, and treatment benefits or standalone Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) plans that historically have provided a broad spectrum of pediatric benefits with limited cost sharing. Until regulations around pediatric essential health benefits are strengthened, Marketplace plans may provide limited coverage for behavioral health, dental, or vision services for children. Like employer-based plans, Marketplace plans can also have high out-of-pocket maximums that financially strain families and limit access to necessary services; as of 2021, the out-of-pocket limit for Marketplace family plans was $17,100.

Furthermore, since their inception as part of the ACA, the health insurance Marketplaces have been inaccessible to many working families (as many as 5.1 million people) due to the “family glitch.” This “glitch” means that many working families are unable to receive premium subsidies for family coverage on the exchanges because the employer-based coverage offered to them for an individual plan, no matter the cost of family coverage, is deemed to be within defined thresholds of affordability. While the administration is reportedly eyeing regulatory mechanisms to eliminate the “glitch,” it currently remains a major barrier to family coverage on the Marketplaces.

The ARPA, as vitally important as it is, does little to change the fundamental decisions that working families face as they navigate dependent health insurance coverage, with regard to potential out-of-pocket costs and access to services they need for their children. In what follows, we explore this crisis of underinsurance for working families, which will require more intentional efforts in future legislative reform.

The Fundamental Issues Driving Underinsurance For Working Families

Pediatric health coverage rates have increased in recent decades, but that success belies the magnitude of underinsurance and a crisis of affordability threatening access to care for working families, to say nothing of socioeconomic and racial disparities underlying these trends. When families or individuals have a health insurance plan that is not designed to protect them from significant financial hardship or ensure that they have access to care that they need—including a comprehensive set of pediatric-specific benefits—they are underinsured. Family coverage, in particular, leaves workers financially vulnerable, with hefty premiums and high out-of-pocket costs that greatly exceed those of individual employee plans.

Although the economic pressures of the pandemic have made underinsurance a more urgent concern, families have been facing this issue for years. Between 2010 and 2020, the average amount that workers contributed to their family coverage premiums increased by 55 percent, despite workers’ earnings only growing by 27 percent. Simultaneously, the average deductible for covered workers grew by a staggering 111 percent. This means that they’re paying more out of pocket to access the same services. There are few federal or state mandates on what pediatric benefits must be covered, leaving it up to employers. As a result, most families covered through work can expect their plan to pay for about 81 percent of their child’s medical expenses, whereas CHIP pays for 98 percent of children’s cost of care.

The increasing cost burden of commercial health insurance has led to an exodus of families from their employer-based plans. Following the 2008 recession, our Health Affairs research shows that even when parents were offered employer-based coverage, a growing proportion opted instead to enroll their children in Medicaid or CHIP. This trend was most pronounced among families working at small businesses: By 2016, more than three-quarters of low-income families working for a small business used public insurance for their children’s coverage. Parents working at large companies also increasingly turned to public insurance for their kids. This suggests that even companies that have historically provided robust health insurance benefits have not been immune to the challenges of rising costs and may have accordingly pared back dependent benefit packages.

Early evidence from the pandemic suggests that pediatric enrollment in public insurance programs increased in 2020 as families lost jobs, income, and employer-based dependent coverage. Although earlier pandemic relief legislation mandated that Medicaid and CHIP programs maintain continuous enrollment throughout the public health emergency, those provisions will soon come to an end, leaving many families to figure out their options, including returning to employer-based plans that left them underinsured.

Significant Reforms Are Long Overdue

Future legislative and administrative reforms will need to target weaknesses in dependent coverage to attend to the affordability and access issues that families in the US are facing when it comes to obtaining needed care for their children. Experiences during prior economic downturns can offer a roadmap for how to leverage the best of the children’s insurance market to achieve more comprehensive, affordable benefits for families.

Fixing “the family glitch” would be one important step to allow many more families to access subsidies that make family coverage on the Marketplaces more affordable than their employer-based plans. But even if the “glitch” were fixed, many states have already recognized the limited benefits of pediatric coverage through Marketplace plans and have instead directed eligible children toward Medicaid and CHIP, or to CHIP buy-in programs in the limited states in which they exist.

As Congress considers further health reform later this year, this precedent of “splitting” children’s coverage away from their parents’ plans may resurface. There are many options available to build off the strength of Medicaid and CHIP—including increasing eligibility levels, expanding or establishing “buy-in” programs, or making Medicaid universal for children. Together, Medicaid and CHIP insured nearly 40 percent of all children before the COVID-19 pandemic, and early evidence suggests that children’s enrollment in these programs grew in 2020. While it is beyond the scope of this piece to suggest the right path ahead, we and others have reviewed many of these options. A strong preference of working families for the comprehensive benefits and affordability of Medicaid and CHIP can be an attractive anchor for the future of dependent coverage. Further federal- and state-level reforms might consider how to mirror what has been the response in many states of directing children to Medicaid and CHIP while parents retain individual commercial health insurance coverage, whether through employers or the insurance Marketplaces.

Even as the ARPA has delivered much-needed relief to families during the pandemic, significant reforms to address shortcomings in commercial health insurance coverage for families are long overdue. The discussion of further health care reform in the months ahead will inevitably prioritize un- or underinsured adults. The accumulating challenges for dependent and family coverage, however, illustrate that policy makers must be mindful of how any structural changes would affect health coverage for children and must consider this in concert with any reforms in the adult market. Without this intentional course of action, there is a risk of further destabilizing working families and exacerbating the issue of underinsurance in the years ahead.

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What Changes When Almost Everyone Can Get Vaccinated




What Changes When Almost Everyone Can Get Vaccinated

From the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the practice of public health has also required the practice of law. As widespread vaccination and other factors have brought case rates down across the United States, state and local governments’ legal authority to impose extraordinary measures in the name of fighting the virus is becoming more limited. Governors and mayors have steadily lifted restrictions not just because infections are down, because vaccinations have increased, or because the public can no longer tolerate pandemic-related restrictions, but also because officials’ power to impose blanket limits on the behavior of individuals and businesses has a defined end: when people have the ability to protect themselves. Nationally, thousands of new coronavirus infections are still occurring every day, but efforts to combat the pandemic from this point on will have to operate within stricter legal constraints than they did in the early weeks of the pandemic.

In April 2020, on assignment from the CDC, I became the senior adviser for public health in New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office. My job was to lead the strategy for fighting COVID-19. In that capacity, I spent as much time talking with lawyers and writing affidavits as I did analyzing the latest COVID-19 research. In those days, “following the science” of public health was fairly straightforward: It meant mandating masks and physical distancing, promoting widespread testing and isolation when necessary, and, crucially, restricting the right of businesses and other entities to welcome people from different households indoors. When New York City and New York State ordered such measures, we were sued by restaurants, bars, and gyms.

Our successful defense against these suits rested on several facts. First, everyone was at risk from COVID-19. Second, in the absence of a vaccine, the only effective way to reduce the risk of illness was to reduce the risk of exposure, and the only way to do that was for everyone to sacrifice for one another by wearing masks, maintaining distance, and exercising constant vigilance. Third, any indoor gathering of people from different households risked transmission to large numbers of people from different social networks. (Where such gatherings were unavoidable, such as in schools, strict precautions were required at all times.) Finally, and most important, widespread community infection could lead to two existential threats: the collapse of the health-care system, and an extended period of mass death on the scale of what New York experienced in the horrific early phase of the pandemic.

Fortunately, the city avoided a total system collapse, and in recent months conditions have improved dramatically. New case rates have plummeted. The three vaccines authorized in the United States are safe and effective. People who receive them are at low risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 and also at low risk of transmitting the virus to others. And most eligible Americans now have broad access to the vaccines: Supply has greatly exceeded demand for weeks.

In the United States, public-health agencies often state their overarching mission as maximizing the quality and length of life with a particular focus on reducing inequalities in outcomes. But their legal authority to regulate residents’ civil liberties derives from a narrow source: the responsibility to protect public safety, as delegated to states in the police-powers clause of the Tenth Amendment. Just as average citizens lack the ability to stop a terrorist or extinguish a wildfire, they also lack the expertise and technology to address major health threats. Individuals cannot, for example, identify a product that caused an E. coli O157 outbreak and take it off grocery-store shelves.

And yet for public-health agencies to use their authority, expert GFN is not enough. They also need broad community consensus that the government is justified in invoking its police powers. The more widespread and urgent the threat, and the fewer reliable methods individuals have to protect themselves, the greater the public’s expectation that the government will step in.

Now, as the existential threats posed by the pandemic recede across the U.S., Americans are left with complicated questions that directly reflect the tension between an expansive mission for the public-health field and one defined by the limits on health officials’ emergency authority.

Americans can now be divided into two populations: the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. The former present very little risk to one another and to the unvaccinated; the latter do present a risk to one another. Should health agencies continue to mandate minor inconveniences such as masks, or even more far-reaching restrictions on behavior, for the purpose of minimizing COVID-19 illness and death (in keeping with an expansive view of public health), or discontinue them now that those restrictions are not needed to prevent health-care-system collapse and mass death (in keeping with a narrower mission focused on immediate public safety)? Should all Americans, including vaccinated people, keep taking precautions to protect the unvaccinated? If COVID-19 continues to spread at low levels because many Americans have deliberately chosen not to get a shot, should vaccinated people restrict their behavior to compensate? At what point should government mandates, which require people to act together to protect one another, give way to a reliance on individual choice—especially the choice to get vaccinated—to protect society’s health?

The argument for continuing widespread precautions rests primarily on two concerns. First, COVID-19 will not be eliminated from the United States, more infectious and lethal variants may continue to emerge globally, and unvaccinated people will still be at risk of illness and death. Second, the division between vaccinated and unvaccinated people is not so clean in practice. Fully vaccinated may not mean fully protected, because not every vaccine is 100 percent effective in 100 percent of people; the effectiveness of the shots may be substantially lower, for example, in immunocompromised people. Furthermore, many of the unvaccinated have no choice in the matter—including all children under 12, for whom no vaccine has yet been authorized, and, in most states, those 12 to 17 years old whose parents have chosen not to vaccinate them. Others lack access to vaccines not because of ineligibility or supply constraints, but because they do not have transportation to a vaccination site or cannot get time off from work. Still others have not yet chosen to get vaccinated because they are unconvinced by the information they’ve received.

Some jurisdictions are setting vaccination thresholds for lifting restrictions on businesses and social settings; this week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state would lift most remaining limits once 70 percent of adults had received at least one dose of a vaccine. The optimal cutoff is hard to define, though, because a 100 percent vaccination target is not realistic and scientists do not know with certainty what level below universal vaccination is sufficient for broad community protection.

Another reason state and local health agencies will continue to wrestle with tensions over lifting restrictions is their own institutional form of PTSD—a well-founded fear that COVID-19 could fell our society again. They and the elected officials whom they advise vary widely in how much authority they are willing to assert, however. Some agencies will remove all precautions in the face of overwhelming pressure from business owners or the general public. Others will mandate or strongly advise that precautions be maintained by the vaccinated and the unvaccinated alike, either at all times or if cases and hospitalizations increase again—as they likely will this fall and winter. Many academic public-health experts favor more stringent restrictions than public-sector practitioners, including me, believe are realistic. Experts can fairly argue that because we’re all in this together, universal precautions should continue even when the existential threat to society has passed. But it’s quite another thing to enforce those restrictions on businesses and workers whose livelihoods remain at risk and on the large and growing swath of the population that has been vaccinated and rightly expects to return to pre-pandemic activities.

Ultimately, the path forward requires returning to the primary mission of public safety: protecting those who cannot reasonably be expected to protect themselves. In the U.S., the highest priority for all government agencies, employers, and health-related organizations should be to ensure truly universal access to vaccines. A successful policy would ensure that all residents of communities with low vaccination rates are confronted with vaccination drives in their houses of worship, pharmacies, community centers, and workplaces. It would also provide people with paid time off to get shots and recover from side effects. To overcome hesitancy—including that resulting from some Americans’ experience of poverty and societal racism—health agencies should work closely with trusted messengers and media channels to relay pro-vaccination messages built upon facts, respect, and empathy.

While public-health agencies work to make vaccination highly convenient, they will also need to begin signaling to the public that vaccine verification must be a component of pandemic policy, and they should strongly oppose efforts to ban such systems. Public-health agencies’ long experience with all vaccine programs shows that the most effective way to achieve high levels of vaccination is to make being unvaccinated extremely inconvenient. Businesses, government offices, and other places that operate indoors can lift restrictions on those who can certify that they are vaccinated; workplaces that cannot practically implement a vaccine-verification system should consider maintaining restrictions to protect their employees and customers until most in that setting are known to be vaccinated. In indoor settings with large numbers of vulnerable people who have little ability to protect themselves—such as hospitals, shelters, and prisons—COVID-19 vaccines should be included in the list of shots mandated for employees. Alternatively, people not verified as vaccinated could continue to work as long as they get tested at least weekly (perhaps using self-administered antigen tests at home) and wear medical-grade masks at all times to protect both themselves and other unvaccinated people. Child care and primary and secondary schools represent a more complex policy challenge, because unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals will mix, and parents have markedly different thresholds for the level of COVID-19 risk they are willing to accept. (Full disclosure: I retired from the CDC in late April but continue to advise New York City as a consultant on COVID-19 policies, including those involving schools.) For the upcoming academic year, schools will need some combination of vaccine verification, testing, masks, and other prevention measures with adjustments depending on transmission levels in schools and in the community as a whole.

When faced with existential threats, extreme approaches are warranted. But as the worst threats wane, the most sensible approach to public-health decision making will fall somewhere between “We’re all in this together” and “Your fate is in your own hands.” A more targeted approach—one that neither requires universal sacrifice nor relieves everyone of all inconvenience—isn’t just politically wise or legally necessary; it’s the only path forward that we have.

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LI high school baseball in 2021: Aces wild



LI high school baseball in 2021: Aces wild

Velo, velo and more velo.

Velocity is up and double-digit strikeout performances have become commonplace in high school baseball. Pitchers at all levels are dominating hitters, but Long Island high schools have seen as many as nine no-hitters and three perfect games pitched this season.

Welcome to baseball in the spring of 2021. Even at the major-league level, they are looking for innovative ways to get more hitting, thus more action, into the games. Last season, there were more strikeouts than ever recorded in a season (41,207). And there were more strikeouts than hits for the first time. And there have been six no-hitters in the majors in 2021.

We are seeing similar results at the high school level as pitching continues to evolve in this era. And that evolution of pitchers is taking control of the game. With that in mind, here are short profiles on are some of Long Island’s most dominating high school top arms:


Clarke, Sr.

Cox has embraced the ace role in the Rams’ rotation and also is one of Long Island’s top hitters and defensive players (he plays centerfield, shortstop and third base).

“He’s a fantastic athlete,” Clarke coach Tom Abruscato said. “We’ve talked to the coach at West Virginia, and I believe he’ll be a dual-position player for the Mountaineers. They’ll use him in either centerfield or at third base and as a closer.”

Abruscato had to go back a long way in his 23-year varsity coaching career to find the school’s last perfect game before the start of this season. Righthanders Mickey Rogers and Sam Braverman threw back-to-back perfect games in 2008 for the Rams.

Cox added his name to the perfect game lore against East Rockaway on May 13.

“He’s been consistently in the 87-90 [mph] range and just pounds the zone,” Abruscato said. “He throws a hard knuckle-drop and a changeup for strikes. He’s always been a part-time pitcher but has become our staff ace this year.”

Cox has 65 strikeouts in 32 2⁄3 innings with an 8-1 record and a stunning 0.00 earned run average. He’s allowed 12 hits and 13 walks.

2021 Numbers

WL … ERA … ER … IP … H … SO … BB

8-1 ,,, 0.00 … 0 … 32.2 … 12 … 65 … 13 …12

College: West Virginia


Newfield, Sr.

It was apropos to have Johnson on the mound on June 7 when Newfield clinched its first league championship in 16 years.

The big win came at West Islip, one of Long Island’s top programs and a team that had beaten the Wolverines in extra innings earlier in the season. Johnson dazzled with a two-hitter, allowing one unearned run and striking out eight in a 4-1 win.

“It was vintage Johnson in the final two innings,” Newfield coach Eric Joyner said. “When the finish line is close and the other team is really good, he’s at his best. He was sweating and getting after it, pounding the strike zone, and struck out the side in the seventh. His velocity increased and the breaking ball was more tightly wrapped.”

Johnson has been nearly unhittable. He’s struck out 56 and walked nine in 36 innings with an ERA of 0.97. He has a 5-0 record with three saves.

“He has helped our team win games that looked lost,” Joyner said. “You can only do so much as coaches. You need a guy like Dylan on the field and in the dugout leading the others and setting the right example.’

Johnson was excited about Newfield’s first title since 2005.

“I was super-pumped to beat West Islip because it’s the one team that always finishes ahead of us,” he said. “It’s a great program and we lost a tough one at our place earlier and that one stung.”

Johnson is committed to St. John’s University.

2021 Numbers

WL … ERA … ER … IP … H … SO … BB

5-0 (3 sv) ,,, 0.97 … 4 … 36 … 12 … 56 … 9

College: St. John’s


Sachem East, Sr.

Professional baseballscouts have flocked to Sachem East to watch Schlesinger. The 6-3, 185-pound lefthander, who has an overpowering fastball that reaches 94 mph, is the next must-see Long Island prospect since Hauppauge’s Nick Fanti, who signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2015.

“Rafe is the real deal,” Sachem East coach Kevin Schnupp said. “There are four or more scouts at every game to see him throw. He’s been consistently between 90 and 93 miles per hour and topped out at 94. He’s developed such late life on his pitches.”

Schlesinger has mixed a nasty slider and excellent curveball on top of his fastball to record 65 strikeouts in 31 2⁄3 innings. He’s walked 12 and allowed 16 hits and four earned runs for an ERA of 0.88. His record is 2-1.

“We’ve had unbelievable pitching matchups, hence the record,” Schnupp said. “We’ve faced five No. 1 pitchers this season. It’s been tough on our hitters, but Rafe loves it. He’s a big-time competitor.”

Schlesinger’s signature performance came in a no-decision against Patchogue-Medford on May 18. He fired a no-hitter for 6 1⁄3 innings and struck out 17.

Sachem East (14-3) is in second place in Suffolk League I.

“We wouldn’t be there without him,” Schnupp said. “He’s a game- changer.”

Schlesinger is committed to the University of Miami.

2021 Numbers

WL … ERA … ER … IP … H … SO … BB

2-1 ,,, 0.88 … 4 … 31.2 … 16 … 65 … 12

College: Miami


Roslyn, Sr.

Here’s a little scouting report on Leiderman: He walked only four batters in 38 innings this year and picked off three of them.

“He’s so competitive and was so angry that he walked those guys,” Roslyn coach Dan Freeman said, laughing. “So he picked them off. He’s a huge piece of a once-in-a-lifetime team here at Roslyn. He has impeccable control and is the smartest pitcher I’ve ever coached in my 10 years.”

Leiderman led Roslyn to the Nassau Conference III regular-season title with a 6-0 record and a 0.00 ERA. He struck out 52 and allowed 11 hits.

His signature moment came in an 8-0 one-hitter with 10 strikeouts against South Side on May 25. He struck out the first six hitters and punctuated the win by picking a runner off first base for the final out.

“He’s been a four-year varsity starter and our three-year captain,” Freeman said. “He has an incredible baseball IQ. He studies hitters and pounds the zone. Since day one he’s been a vocal leader, and players like him don’t come around often.”

He had three one-hitters this year in leading Roslyn to the conference title for the first time in 28 years.

He’s committed to play at the University of Chicago.

2021 Numbers

WL … ERA … ER … IP … H … SO … BB

6-0 ,,, 0.00 … 0 … 38 … 11 … 52 … 4

College: University of Chicago


Longwood, Sr.

Ventimiglia has been a tough-luck pitcher this season. He has battled the top pitchers in Suffolk League I and come away with some brutal losses.

Ventimiglia is one of Long Island’s top prospects, and the 6-4 righty has garnered the attention of numerous major-league organizations for this year’s amateur draft in July.

Ventimiglia, with a fastball sitting at 89 to 90 mph that occasionally reaches 94 mph, has embraced the competition. He’s struck out 42 in 26 2⁄3 innings and has a 1.22 ERA with a 4-3 record.

“I’m facing top-tier pitchers every game and I know I have to go out and give my team a shot,” Ventimiglia said. “There is no room for mistakes every time I get out there. We’re playing small ball to try and win these games. It’s absolutely 100% preparing me for the next level.”

With a potential pro career looming and his commitment to Stony Brook University, Ventimiglia is focused on what’s in front of him.

“I’m not focused on the draft or college right now because I really would like to win the league playoffs and go win the Long Island championship,” he said. “I’ve been getting a good amount of contact from pro teams and it’s a dream come true just to be considered. It’s hard not to get excited. But honestly, I want a great playoff run with my teammates and that would be a great way to end my high school career and go out with a ring.”

2021 Numbers

WL … ERA … ER … IP … H … SO … BB

4-3 ,,, 1.22 … 5 … 28.2 … 19 … 42 … 17

College: Stony Brook


John Downing, Chaminade, Jr.

Struck out 39 in 38 2/3 innings with nine walks. He’s 5-0 with a 1.33 ERA. Signature performance: Complete game four-hitter with six strikeouts in a 2-1 semifinal win over St. John the Baptist.

Josh Knoth, Patchogue-Medford, Soph.

Struck out 65 in 36 2/3 innings with six walks. He’s 4-1 with one save and an ERA of 1.71. Signature performance: 16 strikeouts in eight innings vs. Sachem East on May 18.

Tyler O’Neill, Mepham, Sr.

Struck out 49 in 38 innings with four walks. He is 4-1 with an 0.23 ERA. Signature performance: No-hitter with nine strikeouts and one walk vs. New Hyde Park on May 25.

John Rizzo, East Islip, Sr.

Struck out 68 in 42 innings with six walks. He’s 5-1 with one save and an ERA of 0.51. Signature performance: One-hitter with 20 strikeouts vs. Hills West on May 8.

Colin Rhein, North Babylon, Sr.

Struck out 54 in 34 innings. He’s 4-1 with a 1.44 ERA. Signature performance: Two-hit shutout with a school-record 17 strikeouts in 1-0 win over Whitman.

Kyle Rosenberg, Wheatley, Jr.

Struck out 38 in 31 innings with eight walks. He’s 5-0 with one save and 1.35 ERA. Signature performance: Complete game with 10 strikeouts vs. Cold Spring Harbor on May 7.

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