POST 181. July 22, 2021. CORONAVIRUS. “Health experts fear the Tokyo Olympics could become a COVID-19 superspreader event.” “Whatever happens in Japan isn’t likely going to stay in Japan since all of the athletes and accompanying coaches and staff will be returning to their home countries.”

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The big picture: Infectious disease experts say the Olympics don’t have strong enough protocols for testing or ventilation, either in competition venues or in the Olympic village.

“What kind of ventilation systems do they have? The last check-in we had with them, in their Olympic Village apartments, there wasn’t the kind of adequate ventilation that would substantially reduce the spread of the virus,” said Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota.

Osterholm and a group of other researchers published safety recommendations for the Olympics earlier this year, but with the opening ceremonies fast approaching, they say they’ve seen little measurable progress.

Testing is a core component of the International Olympic Committee’s playbook, but it’ll be too easy for cases to slip through the cracks and then spread, said Annie Sparrow, a professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital.

While there are daily testing protocols for the Olympic teams, the workforce has a varying frequency of testing depending on their role.

“What about the workers, the volunteers, the bus drivers exposed for 14 to 16 hours a day who are going into the village and then going back home to their families?” said Sparrow, who helped advise the WNBA through the pandemic…

Some of the IOC’s suggestions — like suggesting that athletes open their windows every 30 minutes — aren’t supported by science, Osterholm said.

And while formal guidelines call for social distancing, Sparrow pointed to media reports that show some facilities, namely a cafeteria, set up for what looks like full capacity…

“My mind boggles when I think about, ‘What are the risks here?'” said Lisa Brosseau, a bioaerosol scientist and research consultant.

Context: Other sports organizations have navigated this successfully, but experts said the IOC’s precautions simply aren’t as strong as those employed last year by the NFL or the NBA.

“I think [the NFL] understood the concept of airborne transmission and what it meant and they planned accordingly,” said Osterholm, who helped advise the NFL’s safety precautions.

The bottom line: “We all want the Olympics to happen. The world needs good news right now,” Osterholm said. “But we want it to happen as safely as possible.”” (A)

“Some 15,000 athletes and 53,000 officials from 207 countries are expected to enter Japan over the next few weeks for the Tokyo Olympics that are now just a month away.

While some medical experts have warned the games could result in superspreader events, organizers and political leaders in Japan insist they are taking measures to ensure everyone would be “safe and secure.”

At the heart of the preparations is the Olympics village in the Harumi waterfront district of Tokyo — a 44-hectare complex of 21 buildings where athletes will eat, sleep and train in bubbles. They will be frequently tested for COVID-19 and have to obey strict movement and social distancing restrictions.

A clinic will be open around the clock to provide care for any athlete thought to be infected. While waiting for test results, the athlete will have to quarantine in a private room. From July 1, any overseas athlete who tests positive on arrival will be taken for a confirmatory PCR test. If the result is positive, the athlete will have to isolate in a facility set up by Tokyo 2020.

All athletes will have to take daily tests, with up to 18,000 saliva samples expected to be collected each day. Organizers are considering measures such as video recordings and spot checks to ensure rules are followed.

Some 45,000 meals a day will be provided in the 3,000-seat two-story main dining hall. But to avoid overcrowding, athletes can look to a screen to check the numbers in the dining hall. The screen is refreshed and updated every two minutes.

Another change is that the buffets are gone. This year, cafeteria staff will place food on trays for the athletes who will eat behind plastic screens and be encouraged to keep a distance of at least 2 meters from the next person.

Alcohol can be consumed but athletes must drink alone in their rooms. Condoms will be handed out at the point of departure so that athletes will not have to opportunity to use them while still in the Olympic Village.

Because of these measures and restrictions, this year’s Olympics have proved to be even more work than other years. But International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach struck a bullish tone: “Here we go… We are ready,” he said at a virtual conference between organizers on Monday.” (B)

“Two South African soccer players became the first athletes inside the Olympic Village to test positive for COVID-19, and other cases connected to the Tokyo Games were also confirmed Sunday, highlighting the herculean task organizers face to keep the virus contained while the world’s biggest sports event plays out.

The positive tests came as some of the 11,000 athletes and thousands more team officials expected from across the globe began arriving, having traveled through a pandemic to get to Tokyo.

They’ll all now live in close quarters in the Olympic Village on Tokyo Bay over the next three weeks.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said last week there was “zero” risk of athletes passing on the virus to Japanese or other residents of the village. But that bold statement was already being tested…

The two soccer players and a team video analyst who also tested positive had been moved to “the Tokyo 2020 isolation facility,” the South African Olympic committee said. The rest of the squad members and officials had also been quarantined.

Those positive tests further stoked local fears, with the South African team scheduled to play against host nation Japan in its first game on Thursday.

There has already been consistent opposition from the Japanese public to holding the Olympics during the pandemic, with fears that it could become a super-spreader event and cause a spike in infections among Japanese people.

Bach and the IOC have insisted it will be safe and have forged ahead against most medical advice. The IOC says it sees the Games as a chance to foster international solidarity during difficult times, but the IOC would also lose billions of dollars in broadcast rights if the Games were to be canceled completely.

Also Sunday, Team South Africa confirmed the coach of its rugby sevens team also tested positive at a pre-Olympics training camp in the southern Japanese city of Kagoshima. He was also in isolation there and would miss the entire rugby competition, the team said.

And there were other Olympics-related positive tests. Olympic organizers said that another athlete had tested positive, although they were not residing in the Olympic Village. The athlete was not named and only identified as “non-Japanese.”

The first International Olympic Committee official was reported as positive. He recorded a positive test on Saturday when arriving at a Tokyo airport. The IOC confirmed the test and identified him as IOC member Ryu Seung-min of South Korea. He was reportedly being held in isolation, too….

The British Olympic Association said six athletes and two staff in the track and field squad are isolating at the team’s pre-Olympic base in Yokohama after being deemed close contacts of a person who tested positive following their flight to Japan. U.S. tennis player Coco Gauff didn’t travel to Japan after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Tokyo reported 1,008 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, the 29th straight day that cases were higher than seven days previously. It was also the fifth straight day with more than 1,000 cases. The Olympics will open under a state of emergency in Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures.” (C)

Japan is in a tough position right now. Certainly, many businesses have been banking on these Olympics and therefore may be pushing for the Games to go on as planned. Many Olympic athletes probably don’t want to see their dreams further deferred either. At the same time, having people assemble from around the world is one of the worst things that can happen to a country that’s trying to prevent a massive surge. Ideally, you want to at least get the virus under better control first before even thinking about staging a massive international event. It’s not great for the world either. Whatever happens in Japan isn’t likely going to stay in Japan since all of the athletes and accompanying coaches and staff will be returning to their home countries.” (D)


POST 164. May 26, 2021. CORONAVIRUS. On Wednesday, health minister Norihisa Tamura warned Olympic organizers they would have to “secure their own” hospital beds for anyone falling ill at the Games, explaining the government would not release beds set aside for Japanese covid-19 patients.”