The announcement follows consistent pushback from Japanese residents on hosting the delayed 2020 Olympics. According to a poll of the Japanese public conducted in May, more than 80% of the population wanted the Olympics to either be postponed or canceled entirely. Locals had concerns of the event being a superspreader, especially given the current situation of COVID-19 variants infecting both the vaccinated and unvaccinated.
According to NBC News, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has reported 13 COVID-19 infections among all athletes in Japan. Two of the reported infected athletes are from the U.S., including volleyball player Taylor Crabb and gymnastics alternate Kara Eaker—both were reportedly fully vaccinated.
The IOC did not require athletes to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to take part in the Games, a decision many Japanese locals took issue with. As of Friday, Japan’s national vaccination rate was 23.2%, according to the latest statistics. The Olympics begin on a day in which Tokyo broke its six-month high for daily COVID-19 cases two days in a row. This validates the fear Japanese locals have on arriving international athletes worsening the already present COVID-19 crisis.
But while being vaccinated was not required, the IOC confirmed that COVID-19 regulations would continue to apply to all athletes, whether they’re vaccinated or not. Additionally, spectators have been removed to help curb the further spread of the virus. “The best thing to do is to assume everyone’s at risk, and reduce risk by introducing Covid mitigation measures that we know work,” Finnoff said.
While it is alarming that athletes competing at the Olympics are unvaccinated, the fact remains that the average of these vaccinated is still higher than the national rate. According to NBC News, only 56% of Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
As of this report, in the U.S. more than 90% of COVID-19 related deaths and hospitalizations are of unvaccinated individuals. The current state of the pandemic is being called the “pandemic of the unvaccinated” as states nationwide see a surge in unvaccinated individuals being infected.