The NHL says it remains hopeful the Vancouver Canucks can complete a 56-game schedule even though 25 members of the team have tested positive for a variant form of COVID-19, but some experts question if that is possible.
The Canucks released a statement Wednesday saying 21 players, including three on the taxi squad, plus four staff members, “have tested positive and the source infection is confirmed a variant.” Which variant has not been confirmed.
On Tuesday, when the Canucks had 18 players on the COVID-19 protocol list, an NHL spokesman said “a 56-game season is still the focus,” but if necessary the league has some flexibility on scheduling the opening of the playoffs. Asked Wednesday if anything had changed following the Canucks’ announcement, the spokesman said, “my answer is the same as it was yesterday.”
An NHL agent said he had heard nothing about any plans to cancel games.
“So far it sounds like they will push forward based on what I’m hearing,” the agent said.
Twenty-five members of the Vancouver Canucks organization have tested positive for a COVID-19 variant and it has put the remainder of the team’s season in question. 1:55
Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease physician for St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton, said studies have shown people affected by the different variants “will recover on pace,” but depending on the severity of the virus — professional players may need extra time to regain their conditioning.
“They may be out of quarantine in 10 days, but a lot of players may not return after they are considered clear,” he said. “They may actually need a few weeks to get back to hockey normal.”
The Canucks’ situation is complicated because so many players have contracted the virus.
“If you have an outbreak of five or six [players] you can fill in the gaps, you can wait for some of your players to condition properly,” Chagla said. “At 21 players, that’s 21 different players that need to condition properly, that’s 21 players that need to get back into shape, get over their COVID and heal.”
Recovering from the virus is different from rehabbing after a sports injury.
“[A] lot of these guys, it sounds like, were in bed at home,” Chagla said. “You’re losing muscle mass; you’re losing that elite shape.”
WATCH | Vancouver Canucks sidelined by COVID-19:
The Vancouver Canucks have cancelled several upcoming games after a COVID-19 outbreak hit at least half the team’s roster. 1:59
When the first Canuck player tested positive last week, Vancouver’s next four games were postponed. The Canucks were scheduled to return to play Thursday in Calgary against the Flames. The Canucks’ website now says that game and another on Saturday in Calgary have been postponed.
The NHL season was originally scheduled to end May 8 but has already been extended to May 11 to allow for previously postponed games.
The Canucks have 19 regular season games remaining.
The cost of doing business
Corey Hirsch, a former NHL goaltender who is now a member of the Canucks’ radio broadcast team, worries about the physical strain forced on players if they are expected to play their remaining games in a condensed period of time after overcoming the virus.
“You are talking about the whole team,” he said. “You’re not only talking about one guy. My question would be if they are at risk of injury because of the physical shape they are in.”
Moshe Lander, a senior lecturer in the economics of sports, gaming and gambling at Concordia University in Montreal, said the Canucks’ situation is a result of the NHL “not bubbling up for a season.”
“The NHL has accepted this is the cost of doing business,” said Lander.
Delaying the start of the playoffs creates problems for teams in the other three divisions, Lander said. The league also won’t want the playoffs extending into late July because of the Tokyo Summer Games.
Last year’s playoffs, which included a play-in round, began Aug. 1 and ended Sept. 28.
Lander predicts Vancouver might only play 50 games, which will impact other teams in the NHL’s North Division.
“A whole bunch of Canuck games are going to be cancelled, not going to be made up,” he said. “You’re cancelling games against the Oilers, or the Canadiens, or [other teams] that are playoff-bound so their ranking system is going to be disrupted.
“The NHL has protocols in place to determine tiebreakers. I’m assuming it’s just going to be best winning percentage. Everybody has played enough games at this point that you have a reasonable enough sample size to know who [the playoff teams] are.”
Even before the virus struck, Vancouver faced an uphill battle to make the playoffs.
Heading into Wednesday night, the Canucks (16-18-3) trailed Montreal by eight points for the final playoff spot in the North Division.
The lead Minnesota state investigator on the George Floyd case changed his testimony at the trial of Derek Chauvin on Wednesday, telling the court that he now believed Floyd said, “I ain’t do no drugs,” not “I ate too many drugs,” during his May 2020 arrest.
Senior Special Agent James Reyerson of Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension initially agreed with Floyd’s defence attorney that it sounded like Floyd said the latter in police body-camera video played in Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis Wednesday.
But after listening to a longer version of the recording, Reyerson said, he believed Floyd was, in fact, saying: “I ain’t do no drugs.”
Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died on May 25, 2020, after Chauvin, who is white, pressed a knee on the back of Floyd’s neck and his back for around nine minutes as two other officers held him down. Video of the arrest captured by a bystander prompted widespread outrage, setting off protests across the U.S. and around the world.
Chauvin, 45, is facing trial on charges of second-degree unintentional murder; third-degree murder; and second-degree manslaughter. Wednesday marked the eighth day of the trial.
Drug use a key question in trial
The issue of Floyd’s drug use is significant to Chauvin’s defence. The prosecution says Chauvin pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck caused his death. But the defence argues Chauvin did what his training taught him and that it was a combination of Floyd’s underlying medical conditions, drug use and adrenaline flowing through his system that ultimately killed him.
Floyd had been detained outside a convenience store after being suspected of paying with a counterfeit bill. All four officers were later fired.
Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, had earlier in the day introduced this evidence during his cross-examination of prosecution witness Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles Police Department sergeant and use-of-force expert.
Nelson played a snippet of video from the body-worn camera of J. Alexander Kueng, one of four officers involved in the arrest and later fired, and asked Stiger if he could hear Floyd say, “I ate too many drug” as he was handcuffed and prone on the pavement, pinned by the officers.
Stiger replied that he could not make out those words in the footage.
Later, Nelson attempted to get confirmation of the comment while cross-examining Reyerson. Nelson played the clip again, and asked whether it sounded like Floyd said, “I ate too many drugs.”
“Yes, it did,” Reyerson said.
After a short break, Reyerson was questioned by prosecutor Matthew Frank and told the court that during the break, he was able to watch a longer version of the clip that included discussion by officers about Floyd’s potential drug use.
“Having heard it in context, were you able to tell what Mr. Floyd was saying there?” Frank asked Reyerson after the clip was played again in court.
“Yes, I believe Mr. Floyd is saying, ‘I ain’t doing no drugs,'” Reyerson said.
Chauvin had responsibility to re-evaluate use of force: expert witness
Earlier in the day, court heard from Stiger, appearing as a paid prosecution witness providing expert testimony on use of force, say that Chauvin had a responsibility to re-evaluate pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck during their encounter as the health of the 46-year old Black man was clearly “deteriorating.”
Stiger had testified the day before that the pressure being exerted on Floyd was excessive and could cause positional asphyxia and lead to death. On Wednesday he reaffirmed that the force Chauvin used on Floyd was “not objectively reasonable.”
Prosecutor Steve Schleicher asked Stiger whether Chauvin had an obligation to take into account the distress Floyd was displaying when considering whether to continue the type of force he was applying.
“Absolutely. As the time went on … his health was deteriorating,” Stiger said. “His breath was getting lower. His tone of voice was getting lower. His movements were starting to cease.
“So at that point, as on officer on scene, you have a responsibility to realize, ‘OK, something is not right. Something has changed drastically from what was occurring earlier.’ So therefore, you have responsibility to take some type of action.”
During cross-examination, Chauvin’s lawyer asked a question he has posed to other witnesses — whether there are times when a suspect can fake the need for medical attention. Stiger agreed there were.
Obligated to believe
But when asked by the prosecutor whether an officer can “opt not to believe” the detained individual, Stiger said an officer is still obligated to believe them.
“That’s part of our duty,” he said.
Stiger also testified that Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck or neck area from the time officers put Floyd on the ground until paramedics arrived.
“That particular force did not change during the entire restraint period?” Schleicher asked as he showed the jury a composite image of five photos taken from various bystander and body-cam videos of the arrest.
“Correct,” Stiger replied.
But Nelson was able to get Stiger to agree with a number of statements. Stiger agreed with Nelson, for example, that an officer’s actions must be viewed from the point of view of a reasonable officer on the scene, not in hindsight.
He also agreed that a not-risky situation can suddenly escalate and that a person in handcuffs can still pose a threat to an officer.
Stiger also agreed that when Chauvin arrived at the scene and saw officers struggling to get him in the back seat of the squad car, it would have been within police policy guidelines for Chauvin to have stunned Floyd with a Taser.
And he agreed with Nelson that sometimes the use of force “looks really bad” but is still lawful.
The U.S. Justice Department’s inspector general is launching an investigation to examine whether any former or current department officials “engaged in an improper attempt” to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz said Monday that the investigation will investigate allegations concerning the conduct of former and current Justice Department officials but will not extend to other government officials.
The Justice Department watchdog investigation follows a report in The New York Times that a former assistant attorney general, Jeffrey Clark, had been discussing a plan with then-president Donald Trump to oust the acting attorney general and try to challenge the results of the 2020 race by falsely saying there had been widespread election fraud.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer demanded the inspector general launch a probe “into this attempted sedition.” The New York Democrat said it was “unconscionable a Trump Justice Department leader would conspire to subvert the people’s will.”
The watchdog’s probe is part of a growing number of efforts underway to investigate the attempts by Trump and his allies to subvert the election results. The moves culminated in a deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol and a second impeachment of Trump, this time for inciting an insurrection. Also on Monday, the voting machine company Dominion Systems filed a defamation suit against Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani for his repeatedly false claims about widespread voting fraud in the election.
Election officials across the country, along with Trump’s former attorney general, William Barr, have confirmed there was no widespread fraud in the election. Republican governors in Arizona and Georgia, key battleground states won by Democrat Joe Biden, also vouched for the integrity of the elections in their states. Nearly all the legal challenges from Trump and his allies have been dismissed by judges, including two tossed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
U.S. federal authorities are looking for a woman whose former romantic partner says she took a laptop from House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office during the riot at the U.S. Capitol earlier this month.
However, the FBI said in an arrest warrant Sunday, that Riley June Williams has been charged with illegally entering the Capitol and with disorderly conduct, not theft.
FBI officials said a caller claiming to be an ex of Williams said friends of hers showed him a video of her taking a laptop computer or hard drive from Pelosi’s office. The caller alleged that she intended to send the device to a friend in Russia who planned to sell it to that country’s foreign intelligence service, but that plan fell through and she either has the device or destroyed it.
The FBI says the matter remains under investigation.
Acting U.S. attorney Michael Sherwin said after the attack that some of the thefts might have potentially jeopardized what he described as “national security equities.”
Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill, confirmed Jan. 8 that a laptop, “that was only used for presentations” was taken from a conference room.
Williams’s mother, who lives with her in Harrisburg, about 190 kilometres north of the capital, told ITV reporters that her daughter had taken a sudden interest in President Donald Trump’s politics and “far-right message boards.”
Her father, who lives in Camp Hill, about 190 km north of the city, told local law enforcement that he and his daughter went to Washington on the day of the protest but didn’t stay together, meeting up later to return to Harrisburg, the FBI said.
FBI officials said they believe Williams “has fled.” Her mother told local law enforcement that she packed a bag and left, saying she would be gone for a couple of weeks. Williams also changed her phone number and deleted a number of social media accounts, the FBI said. Court documents don’t list an attorney for her.
Fifty-seven years ago, the 1964 Tokyo Olympics signified the rebirth of a nation that had risen from the ashes of the Second World War. Those Games helped launch the beginning of an extended expansion that turned Japan into an economic superpower.
But with the rescheduled 2020 Games set to begin July 23, the story is much different. The contrast is ironic.
“Most people are against it because of coronavirus issues, restrictions, costs in economic downturn, etc. If no COVID-19, then the majority would be for it,” said Robert Whiting, a Tokyo resident and an author and journalist who specializes in contemporary Japanese culture.
Back in the early 1960s, most Japanese were initially opposed to hosting the Olympics, but ultimately came to cherish the symbolism of the event.
More than a half-century later, the population appeared ready to back staging the Summer Games again, only to have a pandemic derail the event and flip public opinion in the process.
“When Japan won the bid in 1959 most people were against the idea,” said Whiting, who in 2018 published “The Two Tokyo Olympics 1964/2020.” “The cost was too high and Tokyo had a lot of problems.”
Whiting noted a litany of issues that organizers were confronted with ahead of Japan’s first Olympics as the host nation.
“There was only one five-star hotel — the Imperial — which was falling into disrepair, no highway system, you couldn’t drink the tap water and only one fourth of structures in the city had flush toilets,” Whiting said. “But the city put up eight new expressways, two subway lines, five new five-star hotels, a monorail to and from Haneda Airport and a bullet train.”
The transformation of Tokyo in five years was nothing short of phenomenal.
1964 a ‘huge success’
“Life Magazine called it the ‘best Olympics ever’ [at the time] and the Games were a tremendous source of pride for Japanese, symbolized their re-entry into the global community after defeat in war,” Whiting said. “It was a huge success.”
In the leadup to the 2020 Games, most polls showed a majority of Japanese were in favour of hosting another Summer Olympics, but once the COVID-19 crisis began and persisted, the pendulum began to swing the other way.
On Thursday, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared a state of emergency for Tokyo and surrounding prefectures, the same day the city reported a record of 2,447 new cases of COVID-19. Japan has attributed over 3,500 deaths to COVID-19, relatively low for a country of 126 million.
But two polls in recent months illustrated the sentiments as the rescheduled Games draw closer. Sixty per cent of those who responded to an Asahi TV poll in November wanted the extravaganza postponed or cancelled outright, while a Kyodo News poll in July found that just 24 per cent supported holding the Olympics as scheduled.
The ever-increasing cost of staging the Games has soured many and made the athletic part of the Olympics almost an afterthought.
I am a little bit disappointed that more than 80 per cent of the people feel that the Olympics can’t be held.– Japan’s Kohei Uchimura, Olympic gymnastics gold medallist
Japan’s National Audit Board released a report in December that estimated costs for the 2020 Olympics would run to $ 28 billion, with only $ 5.6 billion coming from private funds.
“I don’t believe this is an efficient use of taxpayer money,” said Sanae Tanaka, a Tokyo resident. “This could be spent in more useful ways. Do we really need to use it for the Olympics?”
“I am worried about holding the Tokyo Olympics in this situation,” added Yuriko Komiyama. “I wonder if the situation will get better before next summer.”
The negativity that has begun to envelop talk of the Games has even trickled down to the athletes. In a recent interview, gymnastics legend Kohei Uchimura, the 2012 and 2016 Olympic gold medallist in the men’s all-around discipline and a six-time world champion in the event, cited his concerns.
Caution and safety
“I am a little bit disappointed that more than 80 per cent of the people feel that the Olympics can’t be held,” Uchimura said. “I would like everyone to think, ‘What can I do?’ and change their mindset in that direction. I know it is very difficult, but I wonder if the athletes will be able to perform unless they have the same feelings.”
Two-time Olympic figure skater (1976, 1980) and TV personality Emi Watanabe thinks caution and safety should be prioritized with regard to the Games.
“I know the pandemic has changed training schedules and many athletes in the world are suffering because they are not able to practice because of lockdowns,” Watanabe said. “We all have to sacrifice what is best for the human race rather than rush to hold the Olympics until COVID-19 disappears from our planet. I think it should wait until the world is a safe place again.”
The Tokyo-based anti-Olympic group Hangorin No Kai, which participated in a protest during a visit by IOC president Thomas Bach to Japan in November, made its feelings known in written responses to a series of questions submitted to them.
Rather than enhancing medical care and social security associated with COVID-19, a huge budget will be used to hold the Olympics and Paralympics.– Anti-Olympic group Hangorin No Kai
“Our mission is to stop the Tokyo Olympics and have the Olympics abolished,” the group, which was formed in 2013, wrote. “The IOC and Tokyo Olympics organizers have never tried to meet with us.”
Hangorin No Kai indicated that the overwhelming majority of the public they have conversed with are concerned about long-term issues and how hosting the Olympics will impact society.
“Rather than enhancing medical care and social security associated with COVID-19, a huge budget will be used to hold the Olympics and Paralympics.”
When asked if their views would be different if the Olympics and surrounding costs were entirely privately financed, the group didn’t hold back.
Novelty worn off
“We have already lost public spaces and services, including the privatization of public parks due to privatization for the Olympics,” Hangorin No Kai said. “At present, the promotion of the Olympics has even invaded public education and has caused great damage like brainwashing and mobilizing students to support the Olympics. In addition to these, there is concern that the privatization of public education will be accelerated if the event is held with private investment.”
Whiting believes the novelty of hosting the Olympics, which the country has done three times previously (Tokyo 1964, Sapporo 1972, Nagano 1998), had worn off for the Japanese ahead of the Tokyo 2020 bid.
“Now, people are more blasé. Been there, done that,” Whiting said. “Many think the Games are too expensive and money should have been spent on the March 11, 2001, [earthquake and tsunami] recovery. Businesses were against it.”
Whiting pointed out that despite several missteps early on, most people did support hosting the Games again after the bid was secured.
“When Japan won the bid in Buenos Aires [in 2013] attitudes began to change,” Whiting said. “People got behind it despite embarrassments like the flawed National Stadium design, vote-buying scandal, plagiarized logo, e-coli in Tokyo Bay, where water events were to be held, and holding the Games in the brutal summer heat. The 1964 Games were held in October because the [Japan Olympic Committee] said summer was too hot.”
Japan-Forward.com sportswriter Ed Odeven, who has lived in the country for 14 years and covered multiple Olympics, believes there is still hope for the 2020 Games.
“There’s no one-size-fits-all opinion about the likelihood of Japan staging the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics,” Odeven said. “Plenty of people have doubts, but many observers within Japan can point to the successful completion of the Nippon Professional Baseball season, with gradual increases in maximum spectator capacity up to 50 per cent of venue capacity by season’s end.
“Other pro sports circuits, including soccer’s J. League and basketball’s B. League, and big competitions such as multiple Grand Sumo Tournaments have also adjusted to playing during the global pandemic, adhering to government health experts’ advice,” Odeven said. “This includes frequent COVID-19 testing for athletes, social distancing for fans in the overall seating setup and face masks for venue workers, media and fans.”
Odeven cited the recent approval of vaccines as being significant.
“The COVID-19 vaccine now starting to be administered could reduce fears about international travel to Japan for the Olympics if the efforts show a significant reduction in coronavirus cases,” Odeven said. “And that viewpoint would spread considerably among Tokyo 2020 organizers, athletes, coaches, etc. if other nations can demonstrate that the vaccine is working.
“People don’t seem to be particularly enthusiastic about anything set for next summer,” Odeven said. “Everyone is just eager for [the pandemic] to end and for the massive impact of the pandemic on their lives — and all of the disruptions to normal routines — to go away as soon as possible.”
Odeven thinks the vaccines are the silver bullet that could restore faith in holding a massive sporting event in one of the biggest cities in the world in the wake of a pandemic.
“The vaccines are the real litmus test,” Odeven said. “If they can make a real impact in slowing down the spread of the coronavirus around the world, I think people’s expectations about the Olympics will rise.”
As Quebec becomes the first province to implement a curfew to help curb the spread of COVID-19, there isn’t clear consensus whether similar efforts around the world have had much of an effect.
Quebec’s 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew went into effect this weekend and is scheduled to last until Feb. 8, meaning many of the province’s residents will be prohibited from going outside at night. Those caught outside without a valid reason could face a fine of between $ 1,000 and $ 6,000.
The province is following in the footsteps of other jurisdictions that have implemented similar curfews. Spain, Italy, Switzerland and France have all put in nation-wide curfews, and this weekend, 15 zones of France will have even earlier restrictions, beginning at 6 p.m. and lasting until 6 a.m.
Despite the widespread use of curfews, some health experts have challenged what they actually do to fight COVID-19
“I don’t think there is any strong evidence that that kind of approach works,” said Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease physician and a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
However, researchers in France have found data suggesting it has worked to slow spread there — at least for some age groups.
Curfews associated with slowing spread
A team of French researchers looked into three waves of the French government’s health policy measures to combat COVID-19.
Starting Oct. 17, 16 of France’s zones known as départements were put under curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. The following week, 38 were added, so more than half the country was under mandatory curfew from October 23 onwards.
Finally, starting on October 30, a nation-wide lockdown was implemented.
The researchers found that the curfew was able to reduce the acceleration of the pandemic, but the strongest effect was only for people who were 60 and older.
For people younger than 60, it was the subsequent lockdown that did more to curb the spread.
“This suggests that if health policies aim at protecting the elderly population generally more at risk to suffer severe consequences from COVID-19, curfew measures may be most effective,” according to the study, which was released in November on SSRN, a pre-print server.
Patrick Pintus, an economics professor at Aix-Marseille University inMarseille, France, who was one of the researchers, acknowledged this was not a controlled experiment, that the results can only show correllation, not cause-and-effect.
“But what we found was that, especially the first week of the curfew, did seem to have an effect in terms of curbing the pandemic in the sense [of] reducing the acceleration,” he said.
“Our interpretation is that it’s probably due to the fact that because of the curfew, there were much less interactions between that age group in bars, in the restaurants.”
Pintus said they couldn’t say why the curfew didn’t have the same impact on virus spread among the younger age groups.
However, the older demographic is key — not just because they are more vulnerable but because, pre-curfew, the virus was circulating at twice the rate in those over 60 as under, said Pintus.
He did say that from his own experience, he believes people are following the curfew.
“And I think the reason is that our own people prefer the curfew to the lockdown. Of course, they complain about it. And so it’s a huge constraint. But, you know, compared to lockdown, it’s much better.”
Meanwhile, in other jurisdictions, including U.S. states with curfews, there have been mixed results from the public health measure — and the specifics of timing may be key.
On Nov. 19, Ohio implemented a curfew from 10 p.m to 5 a.m., requiring people to stay inside a place of residence between those hours. That order has since been extended three times, with the most recent curfew set to last until at least Jan. 23.
In announcing the extension, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said they had seen a “somewhat flattening of cases” and that the rate of increase was slowing down.
He attributed the change to both mandatory mask-wearing in retail locations and the curfew — but not everyone is convinced.
“I have not seen any data suggesting they [curfews] have been effective in curbing viral spread in Ohio,” Tara Smith, a professor of epidemiology at Kent State University said in an email.
In California, some areas are under a “limited stay-home order” which includes a restriction of some activities after 10 p.m.
“I can tell you just looking at what’s going on in California, that this particular curfew hasn’t made much of an impact,” said Dr. Lee Riley, professor and chair of the division of infectious disease and vaccinology at the School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley.
“I’m not really sure curfews do much.”
Karin Michels, professor and chair of the UCLA department of epidemiology, said she believes the 10 p.m. starting time still invites too much social contact, and that an 8 p.m. curfew, like in Quebec, could make a difference.
“If I have to be home at 8:00 I have to start early. If I want to go to somebody else’s house, and maybe I don’t have much time because I work until 5:00 or 6:00 or something.
“I think [8 p.m.] is more effective. And really, I think given the situation of the pandemic right now, I think we just have to bite the bullet and be more more restrictive.“
WATCH | Why Quebec has decided to implement a curfew:
Quebec has imposed a nightly curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. as part of a four-week provincial lockdown aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19 after record cases have put a strain on the health-care system. 2:00
The countdown clock for the 2020 Summer Games officially sits at 143 days, and Canada’s top athletes are making the final push toward realizing their personal dreams of Olympic glory.
Already under immense pressure — the Olympics only come every four years and, for many, they are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — these young men and women face another massive obstacle on the rocky road to Tokyo.
The coronavirus has already forced Canadian athletes — in sports such as track and field, water polo, and table tennis — to scuttle training camps and bow out of major competitions.
In the bigger picture, the athletes have no idea if the Tokyo Games themselves might be postponed or cancelled altogether. The opening ceremony is scheduled for July 24.
“The support teams — the coaches and the families — can help by redirecting them to focus on the here and now,” says Dr. Tricia Orzeck, a licensed psychologist with a specialty in sports.
“One day at a time. They can’t control what decision is made with Tokyo, so really they just need to just keep focusing on what they’re doing now.”
One of Canada’s brightest stars, Andre De Grasse, is shooting for gold in the 100, 200 and 4×100-metre relay. He won silver and bronze at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, and he badly wants to upgrade.
His phone is constantly bombarded with news about coronavirus.
One of the fastest men on the planet, De Grasse can’t outrun the constant talk about the rising threat.
“It is scary, but I just try not to think about it,” De Grasse told Radio-Canada Sports.
“I kind of have to continue to keep focusing on my sport and hoping that by the time the Olympics come around everything is cleared, everything is ready to go, and everyone is going to have a great time at the Olympics.
“So we’ll see.”
Preparing for potential calamity is nothing new for the International Olympic Committee. Fears of the H1N1 pandemic hung over the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. The threat of the Zika virus caused some athletes to bow out of the 2016 Summer Games in Rio.
Two years later in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the main issue was Norovirus.
“The Canadian Olympic Committee and the IOC — and indeed all countries — always prepare for this kind of eventuality,” Dr. Bob McCormack, the Canadian Olympic Committee’s chief medical officer since 2004, told CBC News Network.
“Like any big Games, you plan for the worst and hope for the best. And the same thing really applies this time.”
WATCH | COC’s chief medical officer on impact COVID-19 might have on Canadian athletes:
Dr. Bob McCormack speaks to CBC on the concern the virus might have on Canadian athletes and the Tokyo Olympics. 7:32
Death toll sits around 3,000
The global death toll from COVID-19 sits around 3,000, with roughly 2,900 of those fatalities occurring in mainland China. The virus has spread to more than 60 countries with more than 100 deaths. On Sunday, health officials announced four new cases in Ontario, bringing the number of confirmed cases in Canada to 24.
Former IOC vice-president Dick Pound, of Montreal, warned last week that June is the likely the cut-off to decide whether the Games will be cancelled.
The Olympics in 1916, 1940 and 1944 were cancelled due to war.
“This is the new war, and you have to face it,” Pound told The Associated Press. “In and around there, folks are going to have to say: ‘Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident of going to Tokyo or not?'”
Tokyo organizers acted swiftly to assure people that cancellation is not on the table. But the spread of coronavirus is escalating and the situation is fluid.
“At this point, the plan is to plan that the Games will be on,” McCormack said. “This is a different virus. And it certainly is a concern. The biggest concern is that we don’t just know the details. We don’t know the trajectory it’s going to take. We don’t know if it’s going to come under control or not.”
The COC issued a statement late last week that said: “As of now, and based on all scientific information available, our plans remain unchanged, all while being alert that we must always consider important and necessary public-health precautions as they arise … COVID-19 is a fast-evolving situation globally, and we will update or revise our Games planning as necessary.”
Canadian athletes left to train
In the meantime, the athletes are left to train as if the Games will happen, with no way of predicting whether they actually will.
Orzeck advises would-be Canadian Olympians to concentrate on the tasks in front of them.
“Focus on doing the best that you can in the training in your World Cups and the training camps that are all coming up,” says Orzeck, former chair of the sports psychology section of the Canadian Psychology Association.
“Things are happening very quickly for these athletes that compete in the summer, so it’s really gearing up for the majority of my athletes I’m working with.
“Every day to try to do the best the best that you can be the top of your sport, but also just the top for yourself.”
Canadian beach volleyball star Brandie Wilkerson is trying to adhere to that wisdom.
“There’s always a lot of news, a lot of different ideas and things that show up before an Olympic Games that cause a lot of attention,” she told CBC Sports.
“So while I always want make sure we are all safe and healthy, I think I’m just looking to just kind of wait and see and trust in the process of containing these things and regulating it — and then kind of make a judgment from there and not be so [hasty] to panic.”
The World Health Organization says it will decide on Thursday whether to declare a global emergency over the outbreak of a new flu-like virus spreading from China.
If it does, it will be only the sixth international emergency to be declared in the last decade. These include the ongoing Ebola outbreak in Congo and the Zika virus in the Americas in 2016.
“The decision is one I take extremely seriously,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, adding that he was only prepared to make it with the appropriate amount of consideration and information “in an evolving and complex situation.”
He was speaking after the WHO held a day-long meeting of an independent panel of experts in Geneva on Wednesday.
WHO defines a global emergency as an “extraordinary event” that constitutes a risk to other countries and requires a co-ordinated international response.
Didier Houssin, chair of the emergency committee, was asked what gave the panel pause for making a recommendation.
“It was the question of assessment of severity and transmissibility,” Houssin said. Information provided by Chinese authorities was too imprecise to make a recommendation about declaring an emergency, he added.
Dr. Peter Horby, a professor of emerging infectious diseases at Oxford University, said there were three criteria for an outbreak to be declared an international emergency:
The outbreak must be an extraordinary event.
There must be a risk of international spread.
A globally co-ordinated response is required.
Deaths from China’s new coronavirus virus rose to 17 on Wednesday with more than 570 cases confirmed, increasing fears of contagion.
The coronavirus strain previously unknown to scientists was thought to have emerged from an animal market in the central city of Wuhan, with a case now detected as far away as the United States.
Wuhan is closing its transport networks and advising citizens not to leave the city, state media reported on Thursday.
Bus, subway, ferry and long-distance passenger transportation networks will be suspended from 10 a.m. local time on Jan. 23, and the airport and train stations will be closed to outgoing passengers, state TV said.
Public health actions do not begin at the declaration of a public health of emergency of international concern. These actions are already well underway – <a href=”https://twitter.com/DrMikeRyan?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@DrMikeRyan</a><br> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/coronavirus?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#coronavirus</a>
The official Xinhua News Agency also asked people not to leave the city without specific reasons.
Tedros commended China’s decision to close transport in Wuhan, saying it helps the country contain the outbreak not only within China but also minimizes the chance of spread elsewhere.
With the first confirmed case in North America, our panel of doctors discuss whether Canadians should be worried about the new coronavirus and what they should be doing to protect themselves. 9:54
Most of the cases are in Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province, but dozens of infections have popped up this week around the country as millions travel for the Lunar New Year holiday, one of the world’s largest annual migrations of people.
Thailand has confirmed four cases, while the United States, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan have each reported one.
The European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said in a risk assessment that further global spread of the virus was likely.
Officials said it was too early to compare the new virus with SARS or MERS, or Middle East respiratory syndrome, in terms of how lethal it might be. They attributed the spike in new cases to improvements in detection and monitoring.