APB's Dr. Michael Osterholm Warns the Olympics Are Unprepared to Deal With COVID-19
24 Jun 2021
In a little more than a month, over 14,000 people from more than 200 countries will gather in Tokyo, Japan, for the Summer Olympics. They will be joined by thousands of delegates and members of the press. One month later, an additional 5,000 athletes and support staff will come together in Tokyo for the Paralympic Games. These two enormous events have APB speaker Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, and several of his colleagues deeply concerned.
Writing for The New England Journal of Medicine, Osterholm, along with Drs. Annie Sparrow, Lisa Brosseau and Robert J. Harrison, warned that adequate steps have not been taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the Olympics. The four are urging the World Health Organization (WHO) to convene an emergency meeting to consider the potential crisis and provided guidance.
“We believe the IOC’s (International Olympic Committee) determination to proceed with the Olympic Games is not informed by the best scientific evidence,” they write. “The playbooks maintain that athletes participate at their own risk, while failing both to distinguish the various levels of risk faced by athletes and to recognize the limitations of measures such as temperature screenings and face coverings.”
In late May, the U. S Department of State warned Americans against traveling to Japan, which is experiencing a fourth wave of COVID infections. As of the first week of June, only 2.85 percent of the Japanese population has been fully vaccinated and the country’s hospitals are under tremendous strain.
Despite their concerns, the four experts don’t believe the games should be cancelled. “The Olympic Games are one of the few events that could connect us at a time of global disconnect,” the colleagues say. “The Olympic spirit is unparalleled in its power to inspire and mobilize. We rally around the torch because we recognize the value of the things that connect us over the value of the things that separate us. For us to connect safely, we believe urgent action is needed for these Olympic Games to proceed.”