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Pittsburgh Penguins could have new owners, Fenway Sports Group

Jake Savitz
90.5 WESA

On today’s episode of The Confluence: Fenway Sports Group, which owns professional sports teams including the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool Football Club, is in discussions to purchase the Pittsburgh Penguins, although co-owner Mario Lemieux is expected to take a minority ownership role; a new study has found people under 30 who recover from COVID-19 have fewer antibodies than those recovered people who are older; and a look at how mental health experts are preparing to treat an increasing number of young patients with “climate anxiety.”

The Penguins may soon be sold, but co-owner Mario Lemieux is expected to stay involved
(0:00 - 7:51)

The Penguins, the most successful franchise in Pittsburgh for the past two decades, could soon have new owners.

The Wall Street Journal broke the news that Fenway Sports Group is the potential buyer.

“This is a very strong buyer, and they own, not only the Boston Red Sox,” says Post-Gazette reporter Mike DeFabo. “They also own the Liverpool Football Club of the English Premier League, recently LeBron James has joined their management group, so they’re a big player here.”

DeFabo says he expects the timing makes sense, coming when the Pens, and other NHL teams, have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic and a drop in ticket sales.

The financial details of the deal have not been made public, but DeFabo says the team is valued at $845 million.

DeFabo says it’s likely Ron Burkle will sell his controlling stake, and Mario Lemieux will likely stay involved as a minority owner.

“His [Mario’s] voice carries weight within the NHL and within the Pittsburgh Community, and so having him there also gives Pittsburghers a sense of reassurance,” says DeFabo. He’s not planning to move this team anywhere, he wants to keep it in Pittsburgh and he wants to continue to win on the ice.”

DeFabo says the Fenway Sports Group’s board could vote as early as today whether to approve the sale. The NHL has to also approve the deal.

New study shows young people had a lower antibody response after recovering from COVID-19 than older adults
(7:45 - 14:43)

On Nov. 17, the Allegheny County Health Department reported 497 new cases of COVID, with those aged 25 to 49 having the most cases. As public officials call on businesses and individuals to get vaccinated, what more can be done?

A UPMC analysis of adults that recovered from COVID found that those younger than 30 could have lower levels of antibodies that could help protect them from getting another infection, and could be another reason to insist everyone gets vaccinated.

Dr. John Alcorn, professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, is the lead author on the antibody study.

This analysis included 173 participants, ages 19 to 79 with mild or moderate COVID-19. Although that seems a small sample size, Alcorn says it’s enough to make some analysis.

“We’ve been working for many years with influenza vaccine responses with the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], and we found many years ago that about 40 patients per group is what we need to be able to make statistically significant inferences based on antibody levels, and that’s what we were able to reach with this cohort,”says Alcorn.

Alcorn says the initial goal was not building a case for vaccination; the study began before vaccines were even available. Researchers wanted to understand the immune response of people with less severe infection, and found, along the way, that younger people recovered from COVID-19 had fewer antibodies than older people.

He says one possible explanation could be tied to how long people experienced symptoms. Study participants over the age of 45 self-reported having symptoms for three days longer, on average, than younger participants. However, Alcorn says participants aged 31 to 45 recovered just as quickly as participants aged 30 and younger, but they had more antibody response, so it’s not a definitive explanation.

“The most utility we can extract from this study would be a piece of information to suggest to people that you really don’t know where you are on this antibody curve in terms of protection, particularly young people,” says Alcorn, which could be yet another reason to get a vaccine, even if one has recovered from the infection.

Climate change is affecting the mental health of young people, but experts are trying to help
(14:47 - 22:30)

The more people experience climate change, or even hear about storms and wildfires, the more it’s expected to impact their mental well-being.

In the second part of The Allegheny Front's series, Julie Grant reports that some mental health experts have started to prepare for the rising need in the coming years.

This story is part of a series, “Pollution’s mental toll: How air, water and climate shape our mental health,” produced in partnership with Environmental Health News.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts. 

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