At the Olympics: “The daily coronavirus tests required of journalists involve spitting into a clear plastic tube”

From a Los Angeles Times story by David Wharton headlined “Olympians, media get settled in Tokyo”:

After a few days inside the so-called “Olympic bubble,” I’ve got another moniker: “The Saliva Games.”

The daily coronavirus tests required of journalists involve spitting into a clear plastic tube, trying to fill the thing to an inscribed black line. It’s a lot harder than it might sound, especially the first time, when you get off a plane after 11 dehydrating hours.

Test officials shepherd you into a cubicle where you sit or stand facing a wall. They have taped up snapshots of citrus fruit, with the suggestion that you “imagine,” to help generate the necessary bodily fluids. It can take minutes on end.

None of this is meant to downplay the desperately serious business at hand. In a country where nearly 15,000 people have died from COVID-19, cases are on the rise and less than 20% of the populace is vaccinated, the government is scrambling to keep these Games from becoming a superspreader event. But two South African soccer players have already tested positive inside the athletes village. There have been other cases in and around the bubble, with an International Olympic Committee official and various staff among the 55 people found to have COVID-19. Cocoa Gauff tested positive for the coronavirus before she even in arrived in Japan and withdrew from the tennis competition.

This news has not exactly eased concerns in a city where residents are living under a state of emergency and have urgently pushed back against inviting 11,000 athletes, along with thousands more officials, coaches and journalists, from around the world. My colleague Dylan Hernandez chronicled the widespread anxiety about the flood of international visitors arriving in Japan.

As the Games struggle toward a downsized opening ceremony on Friday evening, it will take a lot of spitting — and a lot more effort — to keep things from getting out of hand.

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