ASPEN, Colo. — The U.S. Olympic team’s top doctor says all of the 200-plus athletes heading to Beijing for the Winter Games next month are fully vaccinated, and not a single one asked for a medical exemption.
Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Finnoff told The Associated Press the 21-day quarantine period the IOC is requiring for unvaccinated participants, combined with the education the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee provided, “really resonated with the athletes.”
“Vaccination is sort of the foundation of our COVID mitigation protocol,” Finnoff said Thursday.
The USOPC announced a policy in September that required all athletes from the United States to have their vaccines complete by December 1, unless there was a medical exemption. A month later, IOC guidelines were issued calling for either full vaccinations or three-week quarantine periods upon entry into China.
Heading into Summer Olympics in Tokyo last year, Finnoff estimated that 100 of the more than 600 Americans competing weren’t vaccinated.
This week, the U.S. will announce the final members of its winter team. This team is expected to have approximately 240 members. Qualifying for the Paralympics is still ongoing, but Finnoff said so far, the USOPC hasn’t received requests for exemptions from potential Paralympians.
USOPC organizes testing and flights for athletes. Many of them will fly charter flight to Beijing. All need two negative tests — one within 96 hours of their flight to China, and another within 72.
The federation is holding more informational meetings with athletes over the next week, at which it will reiterate the requirement of athletes to adhere to the host country’s laws when considering any type of protest or demonstration.
A group of human rights activists had urged athletes to refrain from criticizing China earlier this week for fear that they might be charged.
“Certainly, the culture and laws of China are distinct from ours,” CEO Sarah Hirshland said. “And we have a duty and an obligation to make sure that they’re well informed. At the same time we need to assure them that they’ve got a robust support team behind them along the way.”
Reports circulating that sensitive information might be stolen in China led to the USOPC advising athletes to take their burner phones.
Hirshland called NBC’s decision earlier this week to not send on-air reporters to cover the games a case of the network doing “the right business continuity planning” to ensure they can deliver complete coverage to the United States.
Hirshland didn’t make any predictions about medals, which is not surprising. But she did mention that there are 11 U.S. competitors ranked No. They are ranked No. 1 in each of their disciplines. Mikaela Schiffrin is included in the overall Alpine World Cup rankings and Red Gerard is on the World Snowboard Points for slopestyle.
The United States won 23 Olympic medals in Pyeongchang, ranking them fourth among the medals tables.
“You add the potential for COVID and we face the same reality as we did going into Tokyo, unsure what the starting lines will look like,” Hirshland said. “But we’re not in a distinct situation from the rest of the world. We’re all facing the same challenges.”