Return to Arkansas bittersweet for Williams

Digital race for vaccine leaves older Americans behind; Neal Moore with his take plus news and sports headlines

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CAC group welcomes Williams back to state

Donna Lampkin Stephens

Christyn Williams’ homecoming Thursday didn’t turn out as she’d planned, but her cheering section wasn’t deterred.

Williams, the Central Arkansas Christian alum and 2017-18 Gatorade National Player of the Year, returned to Arkansas on Thursday for a hastily scheduled game between her University of Connecticut Huskies and the Arkansas Razorbacks. Williams scored 17 points, but Mike Neighbors’ 19th-ranked Razorbacks upended No. 3 UConn, 90-87, at Bud Walton Arena.

It was the first loss of the season for the Huskies, who have won 11 national championships.

“We had about eight kids on our team go up, most of them with their parents, and six or eight former players and some of her family,” CAC coach Steve Quattlebaum said Friday. “She had a good contingent of fans cheering for her.”

Lady Mustang assistant coach Jason Gates called it “a neat experience”.

“It’s still a little surreal looking out there and seeing a former Lady Mustang playing for the No. 3 team in the country,” he said en route from Fayetteville. “We are all proud of her, and I’m already looking forward to getting to see her play in person again.”

Besides Quattlebaum and Gates, the CAC contingent also included current players Bethany Dillard, who was a freshman on the 2018 state championship team when Williams was a senior; Reese Shepard, Riley Bryant, Ava Knoedl, Carleigh Petlak, Peyton Gaston, Katie Odom and Stella Smith.

“It was great to be able to have the opportunity to see Christyn play in person, especially during these crazy COVID times,” said Dillard, who will play for Union University in Jackson, Tennessee next year. “It was also fun to have a little team reunion since a lot of the girls from our old team live in Fayetteville.”

Quattlebaum said the local contingent had some split loyalties during the game.

“Some of my younger ones were cheering for the Razorbacks, and I was, too, but I wanted her to play well,” he said. “She played pretty well. Most of the girls who played with her were cheering pretty hard for UConn.”

WIth Covid restrictions, seating was limited to about 4,400. Quattlebaum said signs outside the arena indicated a sellout. It was the largest crowd to see a women’s college basketball game this season.

He has seen her and the Huskies play over the last couple of years at SMU, Oklahoma and Tulsa. This time, though, it was a little harder to see her before the game because of seating restrictions.

“When I go watch her play, I usually go down toward the floor and yell, ‘13 (her jersey number)’ so she knows I’m there,” Quattlebaum said.

This time, though, an usher stopped him. When Quattlebaum told him he was Williams’ high school coach, the usher told him he, too, was a former high school coach in Texarkana.

“I said, ‘You probably knew Ryan Mallett (the former Razorback and NFL quarterback),” Quattlebaum said. “‘He said, ‘Know him — I raised him.’”

The usher wound up being Jim Mallett, the father of Ryan, who is now coaching at Mountain. Home High School.

Quattlebaum did get a quick visit with his former player before the game and a bit longer one afterward.

“We usually stay around after the game and eventually can get on the floor, but with Covid they were running us out of the gym,” he said. “We hung around a little afterward, and as they were going to the bus, she came by and gave us a little hug.

“She was pretty dejected. She wasn’t in much mood to talk anyway.”

They also didn’t get a chance to visit with the UConn coach Geno Auriemma and his staff.

“They played pretty well, but I’m sure they didn’t play as well as they were capable,” Quattlebaum said of the Huskies. “I thought once they came back, they’d stretch it out, but that’s a credit to Mike’s kids. They were fired up. He does a great job, so positive. You can tell they love to play for him. You could tell they were into it and playing hard.

NOTEChristyn Williams was selected to the 2021 Ann Meyers Drysdale Award Top 10, as announced by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women's Basketball Coaches Association on Tuesday.

Moore on Maumelle: My Take

Neal Moore

Each week when I post this column the reactions range from ambivalence to anger. I actually prefer anger or disagreement. I don’t like cheap potshots. Those are too easy. There is way too much of that on social media.  It usually means the respondents don’t have anything substantive to say. I don’t expect everyone to like what I write. Sometimes, even I don’t like what I write. 

We have become a community/state/nation divided. It has become the norm to believe that if we don’t agree, then we are enemies. It doesn’t have to be that way. Dialogue and discussion will be our way of coming back together. The insurrection of January 6 should be a lesson that there is a better way. 

Last week, I was accused of “political baiting.”  Not quite sure what that means, but I’ll try to keep it up if it’ll keep us talking.  I’ll have to restrict where I post my column, so as not to irritate the highly irritable moderators. They tell me I am now at “Strike 2.” I used that on my children for years. It didn’t work very well then, either. 

Stay in touch and let’s be civil. 

What a Trio for Governor

With last week’s announcement of her gubernatorial candidacy by Sarah Huckabee Sanders, we have the strangest trio of candidates in some time running for the state’s highest office. Also in the mix is Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin. The comatose Democratic Party hasn’t fielded a candidate. They haven’t in some time for any significant state office.

Now we will have to endure two years of campaigning by three announced candidates who have already raised over a million bucks each. Sanders and Rutledge obviously will try to pull from the Trump support base, while neither is qualified to hold the office. 

Griffin is the most qualified, having served as lieutenant governor for the last few years.  But I’m not sure he has the personality to win the office. So far, he has boldly proclaimed that we should get rid of the state income tax — with no real plan to replace the revenue. That’s called grandstanding. (See Rep. Mark Lowery). 

We can only hope that other candidates will come forward, particularly state Sen. Jim Hendren. He is a Republican and is one of the more reasonable centrists in the legislature. I fear he will back away from the upcoming poop fest on the horizon. I don’t blame him. 

TV Thinks You’re Stupid 

I watch a lot of television so naturally I see a lot of commercials, and many of them depress me. I label them Covid commercials. They feature a sentimental soundtrack or a sad undertone of how we are all helping each other get through this nightmare. I’m not sure how these ads are supposed to make me want to buy a product, but the ad agencies keep pumping them out.

  • Insurance Ain’t Funny 

What has happened to insurance commercials, primarily those touting home and auto insurance? For a product that is pretty expensive to most of us, why are the ads attempting to be so funny?  Surely, we all get the concept of bundling by now. 

  • Car Dealer Commercials Featuring Big White Men 

It astounds me that most local car dealer commercials feature a burly good-ole-boy.  I guess they are supposed to be my buddy when I go to buy my car or truck. They all have “the best deal” and for some reason claim they are able to give me a huge discount. Just give me your best price, diversify your commercials — and get off my TV. 

Don’t Forget the Q

The McClard's Bar-B-Q truck from Hot Springs is coming to town this week. Don’t miss your chance to get some really good Q. They will be parked at Fuller & Son, 9728 Maumelle Boulevard., now through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. or when they sell out. 

Stay safe. Wear your mask or masks. Keep your distance and get your shot when you can. 

See you on the Boulevard. 

Neal Moore is a public relations consultant and resident of Maumelle. Send your Maumelle news or comments to Thanks, PJ. 

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‘Cruel’ Digital Race For Vaccines Leaves Many Seniors Behind

By Will Stone

KAISER HEALTH NEWS (Feb. 4) — With millions of older Americans eligible for Covid-19 vaccines and limited supplies, many continue to describe a frantic and frustrating search to secure a shot, beset by uncertainty and difficulty. 

This story also ran on NPR.

The efforts to vaccinate people 65 and older have strained under the enormous demand that has overwhelmed cumbersome, inconsistent scheduling systems.

The struggle represents a shift from the first wave of vaccinations — health care workers in health care settings — which went comparatively smoothly. Now, in most places, elderly people are pitted against one another, competing on an unstable technological playing field for limited shots.

“You can’t have the vaccine distribution be a race between elderly people typing and younger people typing,” said Jeremy Novich, a clinical psychologist in New York City who has begun a group to help people navigate the technology to get appointments. “That’s not a race. That’s just cruel.”

While the demand is an encouraging sign of public trust in the vaccines, the challenges facing seniors also speak to the country’s fragmented approach, which has left many confused and enlisting family members to hunt down appointments. 

“It’s just maddening,” said Bill Walsh, with AARP. It should be a smooth pathway from signing up to getting the vaccine, and that’s just not what we’re seeing so far.” 

Glitchy websites, jammed phone lines and long lines outside clinics have become commonplace as states expand who’s eligible — sometimes triggering a mad dash for shots that can sound more like trying to score a ticket for a music festival than obtaining a lifesaving vaccine. 

After being inundated, some public health departments are trying to hire more staff members to handle their vaccination hotlines and specifically target seniors who may not be able to navigate a complicated online sign-up process.  

“Just posting a website and urging people to go there is not a recipe for success,” said Walsh. 

‘Terribly Competitive’ 

Like many other seniors, Colleen Brooks, 85, had trouble sorting through the myriad online resources about how to find the vaccine where she lives, on Vashon Island in the Puget Sound near Seattle.

“It was an overwhelming amount of information,” she said. “I knew it was here someplace, but it wasn’t easy to find out how to get it.”

After making calls, Brooks eventually got a tip from a friend who had spotted the vaccines being unloaded at their town pharmacy. When she dropped by her health clinic to inquire about how to sign up, it happened they were giving out shots that same day.  

That was totally serendipitous for me, but I actually personally know several seniors who just kind of gave up,” said Brooks. 

Finding out how to get a vaccine appointment was more straightforward for Gerald Kahn, 76, who lives in Madison, Connecticut. 

Kahn got an email notice from the state’s vaccine registration system telling him to make an appointment, but he ran into problems at the very end of the sign-up process. 

“As much as I would pound my finger on the face of my iPad, it didn’t do me any good,” he said.

So Kahn did what many have and called a younger family member, who was able to help him finish signing up. 

“I think there are a lot of people my age, maybe the preponderance, who can only go so far into the internet, and then we’re not only stymied but also frustrated,” he said. 

When Helen Francke, 92, logged on for a vaccine at the designated time, she discovered the spots available in Washington, D.C., filled up almost instantaneously. 

“It was evident that I was much too slow,” she said. “It’s terribly competitive and clearly favors those with advanced computer skills.” 

The next week, Francke tried calling and going online — this time with the help of her neighbors — without success.

“If I had had to depend on the D.C. vaccination website and telephone, I’d still be anxious and unsuccessful,” said Francke, who got a shot only after finding information on a neighborhood discussion group that directed her to a hospital. 

In Arizona, Karen Davis, 80, ended up on a roundabout quest through state and hospital websites with no clear sense of how to actually book an appointment. 

I kept trying to do it and kind of banged my head against the wall too many times,” she said. 

Davis, a retired nurse, called her doctor and the pharmacy and then eventually turned to a younger relative, who managed to book a 5 a.m. appointment at a mass vaccination site. 

“I’m sure they did not expect older people to be able to do this,” she said. 

Miguel Lerma, who lives in Phoenix, said his 69-year-old mother has been unsuccessful in finding a shot. 

“She’s not an English speaker and doesn’t know technology well, and that’s how everything is being done,” said Lerma, 31. 

Lerma said it’s especially painful to watch his mother struggle to get the vaccine — because he lost his father to covid last year. 

“She’s mourning not only for my dad, but she’s also suffering as an adult now because she depended on him for certain tasks,” Lerma said. “He would’ve handled all this.” 

‘Desperate’ Seniors Look for Help  

Philip Bretsky, a primary care doctor in Southern California, said his older patients would typically call him or visit a pharmacy for vaccines like the annual flu shot, rather than rely on novel online scheduling systems. 

“That’s not how 85-year-olds have interacted with the health care system, so it’s a complete disconnect,” he said. “These folks are basically just investing a lot of time and not getting anything out of it.” 

California’s recent decision to change its vaccination plan and open it up to those over 65 only adds to the confusion. 

Bretsky said his patients are being told to call their doctor for information, but he isn’t even sure when his office, which is authorized to give the vaccines, will receive any. 

Patients in this age group want to know that they’re at least being heard or somebody is thinking about the challenges they have,” he said. 

There are some local efforts to make that happen.  

In the village of Los Lunas, New Mexico, public health workers held an in-person sign-up event for seniors who needed assistance or simply a device connected to the internet. 

Florida senior center recently held a vaccination registration event and a clinic specifically for people over 80 who might not have a computer. 

Novich, the clinical psychologist in New York, teamed up with a few other people to create an informal help service for older adults. It began as a small endeavor, advertised through a few synagogues and his Facebook page. They’ve now helped more than 100 people get shots.  

“We have a huge number of requests that are just piling up,” said Novich. 

“People are really desperate and they’re also confused because nobody has actually explained to them when they are expected to get vaccinated. … It’s a big mess.” 

The ongoing shortage of vaccines has led Novich to halt the service for now. 

This story is part of a partnership that includes NPR and KHN