By EDDIE PELLS, National AP Writer
ASPEN, Colo. (AP) — The U.S. Olympic team’s top doctor says all of the more than 200 athletes heading to Beijing for the Winter Games next month are fully vaccinated, and not a single one has asked a medical exemption.
Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Finnoff told The Associated Press that the 21-day quarantine period the IOC requires for unvaccinated participants, combined with the education provided by the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee, “has really found a resonate with the athletes”.
“Vaccination is sort of the foundation of our COVID mitigation protocol,” Finnoff said Thursday.
In September, the USOPC introduced a policy requiring American athletes to be fully vaccinated by December 1, unless they have a medical exemption. About a month later, the IOC issued guidelines calling for full vaccinations or a three-week quarantine period upon entering China.
Heading into the Summer Olympics in Tokyo last year, Finnoff estimated that 100 of the more than 600 Americans competing were unvaccinated.
The United States will finalize winter team members this week. It should include around 240 athletes. Qualification for the Paralympic Games is still ongoing, but Finnoff said that so far the USOPC has not received any bye requests from potential Paralympians.
The USOPC has arranged testing and flights for the athletes, many of whom will travel to Beijing on charter flights. All need two negative tests – one within 96 hours of their flight to China and another within 72.
The federation is holding further briefings with athletes over the next week, during which it will reiterate the obligation for athletes to respect the laws of the host country when considering any type of protest or demonstration.
Earlier this week, a group of human rights activists urged athletes not to criticize China for fear of prosecution.
“Certainly, China’s culture and laws are distinct from ours,” said CEO Sarah Hirshland. “And we have a duty and an obligation to ensure that they are well informed. At the same time, we need to assure them that they have a strong support team throughout the process. »
With reports swirling that personal information may be compromised online in China, the USOPC has joined other countries in telling athletes to bring burner phones if possible.
Hirshland called NBC’s decision earlier this week not to send reporters on-air to cover the games, a case where the network is doing “the right business continuity planning” to ensure it can provide comprehensive coverage in the United States.
Unsurprisingly, Hirshland would not engage in medal prediction. She pointed out that the United States headed into the games with 11 athletes ranked No. 1 in their respective disciplines. This includes Mikaela Shiffrin in the overall Alpine Skiing World Cup standings and Red Gerard in the World Snowboard points list for slopestyle.
The United States won 23 medals at the Pyeongchang Olympics, good for fourth place in the medal table.
“You add the potential of COVID and we face the same reality as us entering Tokyo, not knowing what the start lines will look like,” Hirshland said. “But we are not in a separate situation from the rest of the world. We all face the same challenges.
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