Olympics: Possible Tokyo state of emergency, vaccination update, a unique perspective on mental health

Japan 2020

AUSTIN (KXAN) — With less than 200 days to the start of the Tokyo Olympics, Japan is planning to declare a state of emergency in the city and three nearby prefectures this week because of rising coronavirus cases, Kyodo News reports.

That could go into effect by Friday, Kyodo News said, becoming the country’s second state of emergency since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Still, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga continued his pledge to hold the Olympics this summer and “bring hope and courage to the world.”

The cost of the Olympics will be $15.4 billion, up from $12.6 billion planned in last year’s budget, according to organizers in December. But, the Associated Press reports government audits suggest the true budget could be as much as $15 billion. That makes it the most expensive Summer Olympics ever, according to a University of Oxford study. When it was awarded the Games in 2013, Tokyo had said it would cost about $7.5 billion. About $900 million will be spent on COVID-19 safety measures.

Vaccinations ahead of the Games

Japan said originally it hoped to start vaccinating its population in March and have a majority of vaccinations finished by July in time for the Olympics, but the Associated Press said this week the prime minister hoped to begin in February.

Dr. Stephen Thomas, an infectious disease specialist in New York who was his facility’s lead principal investigator in the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine trial, said that short timeline may not be too ambitious for Japan, but it depends on how the country’s public health system works. He recalled how when he lived in Thailand for six years, the country would have national vaccination days where tens of millions of people would receive inoculations for diseases like polio.

“it’s just a matter of how is the country organized how is the public health system organized how much vaccine are they going to have available and will they have enough time to make sure that people are effectively immune and immunized prior to — prior to the start of the games,” Thomas said. “But it’s absolutely possible. It can be done because it’s been done in the past.”

Thomas noted that in the U.S., where the Centers for Disease Control are reporting about 32% of people have been vaccinated, he believes officials are being deliberate and going slowly to try to avoid making mistakes. But, he noted the interface between the federal government and the states over responsibilities in the process has added to the challenge.

“The federal government gives big kind of buckets of who should be vaccinated but there’s a lot of gray area in those buckets and so the states have to figure — have to figure that out,” he said. In the past, Dr. Thomas has said if the Olympics require vaccinations, it could lead to a “sticky situation” as many places, such as the United States, are not prioritizing athlete vaccination.

Talking honestly about mental health

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted everyone’s daily lives, and often brought mental health issues to the forefront.

A runner who’s experienced the highs of the Olympics and the low that came afterward has a message for those who are having a tough time: focus on healing.

Alexi Pappas attends the IFC Films Spirit Awards Party on February 08, 2020 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for IFC Films)
Alexi Pappas attends the IFC Films Spirit Awards Party on February 08, 2020 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for IFC Films)

“It was only once I got help that I realized my brain was a body part and it could get injured like any other and it could heal like any other,” said Alexi Pappas of the realization that came after being diagnosed with clinical depression. She took her dedication she’d used in training that had landed her the 17th spot in the world for the 10,000 meters in 2016 and focused that same drive and patience on her healing process.

The Olympian, who competed for Greece but lives in California, joins others who have opened up about struggling after the Games. Others include champion swimmer Michael Phelps, speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno, hurdler Lolo Jones and snowboarder Shaun White, who were profiled in the documentary “Weight of Gold.”

Pappas is sharing the breadth and depth of her own story — which also includes being an actor and filmmaker — in a book coming out Jan. 12 called “Bravery: Chasing Dreams, Befriending Pain, and Other Big Ideas.”

“What a book does a really good job of is providing a place to tell the whole story and to show that high achieving people have probably had an unexpected journey and its important to show people that if any young person or any person at all has a dream or is feeling pain, or any of the things that I’ve felt, they understand that — that it’s a series of choices we make to get to the next place,” Pappas said.

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