The pandemic Olympics, vaccine misinformation, and reinstated Covid-19 passes. Here’s what you should know:
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The Olympics could be a Covid-19 ‘super-evolutionary’ event
A year later than planned, the 2020 Summer Olympics kicked off in Tokyo today. For stakeholders, there was a huge incentive to make sure the Games happened in some form or another. But while around 85 percent of the people coming to Tokyo for the event are vaccinated, only 22 percent of Japanese people are. Coupled with the fact that cases have stayed relatively low in Japan, and the Olympics could provide the perfect breeding ground for superspreading and the exchange of new variants.
Beyond the Olympic Village, the virus is once again surging in Tokyo, which is currently under a state of emergency that will last until after the Games have ended. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga recently admitted that it’s been hard to drum up enthusiasm among Japanese citizens amid pandemic fears. Earlier this week, Toyota announced it was pulling its Olympics ads in solidarity with the Japanese public’s opposition to the event.
Vaccine misinformation and hesitancy keep inoculation rates down and drive a new surge in US cases
The Delta variant now accounts for more than 80 percent of infections in the US, and has spurred an increase in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in every state and Washington, DC. That said, the worst outbreaks are in places where vaccination rates have stayed low. The White House has repeatedly pointed out that misinformation has kept many from getting vaccinated, and accused social media platforms like Facebook of not doing enough to curb its spread.
But it’s hard to argue that any social network has the impact of conservative cable news channels like Fox News, where nearly 60 percent of vaccine-related segments over a recent two-week period undermined vaccination efforts. And vaccine hesitancy in the US still falls largely along party lines. As Delta surges, however, more and more Republicans are encouraging their base to go out and get shots, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Representative Steve Scalise, the number two Republican in the House.
Countries, cities, and school districts reinstate public health measures as Delta spreads
Amid the rise of the Delta variant, some countries are reintroducing Covid passes or other ways to prove vaccination before entering certain establishments. Starting Wednesday, visitors in France need a special pass saying they’re either fully vaccinated, have tested negative, or have recovered from Covid-19 in order to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower and visit museums and movie theaters. Israel’s Green Pass program, which limits entry to public spaces like restaurants, gyms, and synagogues to people who have been vaccinated or recently tested negative, is set to go back into effect next week. And Boris Johnson recently announced that English nightclubs and other venues with crowds will require proof of vaccination by the end of September.
Even within the US, some are reevaluating public health measures. New York City mayor Bill de Blasio announced this week that public hospital workers will be required to either get vaccinated or be tested weekly in a bid to boost vaccination rates within the city’s hospitals. And Chicago Public Schools recently announced that all students and teachers will need to wear masks when classes start next month regardless of whether or not they’ve been vaccinated.
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