Despite crowds and things appearing 'normal,' COVID-19 hasn't left sports and can't be wished away

Despite this week's announcement from the White House that 70 percent of American adults are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, late Wednesday the United States passed 750,000 deaths from COVID-19, the Washington Post reported. That's more than the populations of Wyoming, Vermont and Alaska, and approaching that of North Dakota.

There are still almost 1,300 Americans a day dying from COVID.

So while it is the desire of so many to get back to whatever pre-pandemic "normal" they've been pining for, the pandemic is still very much here.

Some of us have known that. We have done the right thing and gotten vaccinated, still abide municipal masking rules where they're in place, still submit to testing when asked, still have to deal with restrictions because not everyone wants to listen to doctors and scientists, and protect not just themselves but others.

Wednesday provided a slap of reality for those who thought the pandemic had magically ended because they want it to end. From a sports perspective, fans are in stands, sometimes required to be vaccinated. Either way, the crowds give the illusion that the virus that continues to ravage communities and alter families has disappeared.

Oct 28, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) huddles with teammates during the second half against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest names in his sport is on the COVID reserve list after a reported positive diagnosis: Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers is not vaccinated. Making it worse, it appears he was at best deceptive about his status and at worst, and more bluntly, he lied about it.

He was asked if he was vaccinated in August and said "yes" before cagily saying he was "immunized." Reportedly, Rodgers received some sort of treatment that he was told immunized him against the virus, though the NFL and NFL Players Association told him nice try, but that's not good enough for us. The reigning MVP has supposedly been adhering to the rules for unvaccinated players, which includes daily testing and not being able to leave the team hotel for road games.

At minimum, Rodgers will miss this weekend's game at the Kansas City Chiefs. The Nov. 14 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks also isn't guaranteed.

The Packers are currently 7-1, one of four NFC teams with just one loss. Jordan Love, the Packers' 2020 first-round draft pick, will start Sunday. Maybe Love is like the New York Jets' Mike White last week and lights Kansas City up — which is possible given the status of the Chiefs' defense. But the Packers could still lose, and after the NFL added a seventh playoff team last season, the No. 1 seed in each conference has gained even more significance. With a 17-game regular season upon us, that week of rest may be more valuable than ever.

Will any Green Bay fans who have been reluctant to get vaccinated or are staunchly anti-vax — 58 percent of eligible residents have received at least one dose — be as happy to support Rodgers if the Packers have to play away from friendly, freezing Lambeau Field in the postseason if they lose Sunday and possibly next?

It is possible to get COVID if you are vaccinated, as we saw elsewhere this week, with Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby and Milwaukee Bucks All-Star Khris Middleton both testing positive. But the effects are minimized if you contract it, according to the latest published data from the CDC. The group says you're 11 times more likely to die from the disease and 12 times more likely to be hospitalized if you are not.

More than that, sports leagues' approach when players are vaccinated vs. when they aren't vary significantly: a vaccinated NFL player who tests positive, if asymptomatic, can return to his team much faster than one who hasn't been jabbed. An unvaccinated NHL player loses a day's pay for every day he misses.

In September, Tom Brady told Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times that COVID might be more of a factor for NFL teams this season than last, and he has been proven right. We're at the midpoint of the season, but the NFC playoff picture may change thanks to Rodgers' selfishness.

As much as some of us want to act as if it has, COVID hasn't gone anywhere.