As for people who are Olympic-bound and who already have positive results, McCloskey said that is not a malfunction in the system. Quite the opposite – each of them represented a cross-section of the more contagious time sequence that could have been. “What we’re seeing is what we basically expected,” McCloskey told reporters in Tokyo at a news conference on July 19, the week before the opening ceremony. “If I thought all the tests we did would be negative, I wouldn’t bother to do them.”
Hey, 91 positive cases of approximately 15,000 competitors and tens of thousands of journalists and other Olympic workers is not bad, is it? For several disease experts and sports advocates, the answer is: It’s actually pretty bad – because of what it says about the preparations and what could happen next.
At least so what some scientists and experts have said. Hitoshi Oshitani, a virologist who devised a Japanese anti-Covid strategy,, said London times that he did not think it was possible to have safe Olympics. “There are a number of countries that don’t have a lot of cases, and a series that doesn’t have any variants,” Oshitani told Times. “We should not be at the Olympics [an occasion] to spread the virus to these countries. There is not much risk for the US and the UK, where people get vaccinated. But most countries in the world do not have a vaccine. “
McCloskey estimates that about 85 percent of people coming to Tokyo will be vaccinated. But only about 22 percent of Japanese are. It is among the lowest rates in all rich countries. Combined with the relatively small number of cases in Japan, this means that most of the population still has no antibodies to the virus. They are what epidemiologists call “naive.” Which means Japan could be, as a cliché, a victim of its own success. “Obviously, great value is attached to holding these Olympics,” says Samuel Scarpino, director general of pathogen surveillance at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Institute for Pandemic Prevention. “Because it’s certainly risky to bring people together in a group environment in a country that basically doesn’t have vaccinations and basically doesn’t have existing immunity among the population.”
Asymptomatic airborne spread of Covid-19 means that testing must be extremely frequent, at least once a day, to catch cases before infecting others. Strict, successful disease control measures American National Football League i National Basketball Association for example, he used all the typical hygiene measures and distancing, plus a hard test-trace-isolate test. The NFL conducted PCR reverse transcription tests on a daily basis and provided players and staff with single-purpose electronic devices that registered close contacts; a cumulative 15 minutes or more counts as a higher risk. Over time, the NFL supplemented the electronics with intensive personal interviews to determine the nature of those contacts. (Disguised? Indoors? While eating?) “What the NBA did – or women’s basketball, which I advised last year – was to design and pull the bubble. Once you get into it, you won’t get out, ”says Annie Sparrow, a professor of science and policy on population health at Mt. Sinai Medical School. “There is no way you can ever make a balloon at the Olympics. This simply cannot be done to this extent. “
In early July, Sparrow and a bunch of other U.S. researchers announced comment u New England Journal of Medicine expressing many of the same concerns that Oshitani did. They went further, warning that the strategy put forward by the McCloskey group was based on outdated information on virus dynamics.
The article, in turn, echoed criticism from the World Players Association, an international group working with unions of athletes around the world. The WPA argued – with little effect, because it did not receive a response from the IOC, that the rules held that contact on, say, a rugby court was the same as contact in individual gymnastics or an outdoor racetrack. WPA representatives criticized the situation in the common room and the advice from the manual on occasionally opening windows for ventilation, which could be impractical in the extreme summer heat in Tokyo. Also bad in plan: allowing different types of masks and personal protective equipment, using phone apps to search for contacts instead of dedicated technology, and a host of other, less than stellar interventions that WPA officials said were just looking for problems. “There will never be zero risk when it comes to Covid, but more mitigation could certainly have been introduced,” says Matthew Graham, director of legal and player relations at WPA. “We, like the athletes we represent, hope that this can be done safely, but that there was no need to save costs.”