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Photo: Pointnshoot, Flickr, CC by 2.0
What is the exact reason that recreational hockey seems to have a higher risk for coronavirus than some other sports?
Living on Earth says the jury is still out.

Do you listen to the radio show Living on Earth? This environmental news program is nationally syndicated and has a free newsletter you can sign up for here. I have learned so much from it over the years.

Today I’m writing about a story that caught my attention because I have a grandson, 10, and a granddaughter, 7, who are forces to be reckoned with in the sport of ice hockey. And one of them had a quarantine episode after a teammate test positive for coronavirus. I would not want to see these two lose their favorite sport for a year when so many other things have been lost, but I guess I want to know how infection is being carried in ice hockey and what can be done.

Living on Earth reports that “outbreaks have occurred in connection with recreational and youth hockey, and researchers are rushing to pin down the role of air temperature and humidity in creating optimal conditions for contagion. For some advice about getting through winter safely, host Steve Curwood caught up with pediatrician Aaron Bernstein, the interim director of Harvard’s Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment. …

“CURWOOD: There is much that science still has to learn about Covid-19, such as why indoor recreational ice hockey has been associated with outbreaks in several states, not just in the north but also in Florida, where about a dozen people got Covid 19 after a game at a hockey rink in Tampa Bay. … Welcome back to Living on Earth, Ari! …

“Walk us through in basic terms, what about the virus might make it more dangerous for these cold weather sports? …

“BERNSTEIN: The best clues we have right now is that transmission may not be happening as much on the ice, but may be happening off the ice in locker rooms or on the bench when people may take off protective gear or sit too close with each other. We don’t really know. … But we mostly see in in other indoor settings transmission happening when you’ve got people sticking around each other for long periods of time. …

“We do know a couple of things. I mean, what’s clear is that sunlight is really good at inactivating the virus. So, you know, ice skating rinks are not in a lot of sunlight. … Here in the Northern Hemisphere, there’s a lot less ultraviolet radiation hitting us from the sun.

“CURWOOD: So as we move into winter, of course, historically, the influenza virus seems to do much better in the winter. …

“BERNSTEIN: I do think we need to pay close attention to places where we’re asking people to congregate, and being careful about the appropriate precautions. … We’re breaking records in transmission as we speak and there’s a great risk that this virus can spread through the winter. The idea has been floated that herd immunity will protect [us] is reckless and dangerous. …

“[Safety is] the same dull stuff that folks have been talking about for a long time. It’s wearing a mask, it’s washing your hands, it’s keeping physical distance. And those measures can have a dramatic effect upon the spread of disease. … A lot of people, including folks like Tony Fauci and other public health leaders have strongly advised people to not gather in person, because the risks are growing so great, because the reality is that we have more cases today in the country than almost any other time. …

“Part of our action here is not just for ourselves, it’s for the people who live in [our] communities. [For the regular flu, ] there’s a vaccine. … If you take the current coronavirus season, and you add to it even a mild flu season, there are no hospital beds for people to go into. … There are a lot of people who don’t want to get vaccinated for the flu because they think it’s not that bad, or they think the flu vaccine doesn’t work. And neither of those things are true. …

“I should be getting vaccinated against the flu to protect people who are older than me, my family members who may have cancer. … Think about it. If you have a family member who’s pregnant, they often need to go to a hospital. Do you really want them to go to a hospital in which the hospital is overwhelmed with preventable influenza infections? [These] things tie together pretty quickly.”

I have to thank this show for delivering my sermon to readers. Get your shot for the seasonal flu! More at Living on Earth, here.

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Photograph: James Montague for The New York Times
Outside the Vakar Lajos rink, where the Hungarian name of the Romanian ice hockey team, Hoki Sport Club Csikszereda, is printed on the ice.

I don’t follow ice hockey, but a recent article on ethnic Hungarians playing for the Romanian ice hockey team caught my eye.

I already knew that a chunk of Romania is like a little Hungary because my church and a church in Transylvania (20 percent ethnic Hungarian) have a longstanding relationship. Exchanges back and forth occur nearly every year.

So in flipping past the sports section the other day, I couldn’t ignore an article by James Montague on the irony of Romania, a country that under communism repressed ethnic Hungarians, having so many of them on their national ice hockey team. A feeder team in Miercurea Ciuc, Romania, calls itself Szekely Land, after a former province of the Kingdom of Hungary.

“The Szekely Land, named for a warrior tribe that dates to the Middle Ages, is a Hungarian-dominated area of Romania, covering three counties in the center of the country. The roughly 1.2 million Hungarians represent Romania’s largest ethnic minority, about 6 percent of the country’s population. The fall of the Austro-Hungarian empire after World War I marooned millions of Hungarians in what is now Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine and Serbia. The Szekely found themselves cut off and subject to a policy of assimilation, including heavy restrictions on the use of their language, under the former communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu.”

Sometimes having so many ethnic Hungarians on the Romania team can lead to unhockeylike situations. The “anomaly reached a critical point during a 2011 game between Romania and Hungary in Miercurea Ciuc,” writes Montague. “After the game, almost all of Romania’s players joined with their opponents to sing the Hungarian anthem.

“ ‘Some of the paparazzi caught it, and it was a big scandal,’ said Attila Goga … who has played for the Romanian national team for a decade but holds dual Romanian-Hungarian citizenship. ‘It’s a little bit strange, but I can see that, too. They don’t understand our situation here.’ ” More.

My advice to autocrats: Don’t try to change people’s language. It always ends badly.

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