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Olympians abide by COVID protocols

WED. | 02-23-22 | OPINION

     The Chinese government has recently implemented extreme COVID-19 protocols for all athletes competing in the Beijing Winter Olympics this year. While COVID-19 has affected athlete participation for the last two years, the new restrictions have never been as detrimental as these. Clearly, it is important to take precautions in order to contain the virus, but the Chinese government’s requirements have gone too far.

      If any athletes, coaches, and staff members are not vaccinated, they will enter a three-week quarantine before the tournament, and will be given several

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COVID-19 tests throughout this period. If the participants are vaccinated, they will need to provide two negative COVID-19 tests before entering the country, along with having daily throat swabs and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) lab tests. If any athletes or team members test positive, they will either be sent to a hospital or hotel room to quarantine until they receive several negative tests. This could lead to athletes missing the opportunity to compete in their event. The sensitivity of the PCR lab tests is a large part of the problem.

     PCR lab testing is a process which copies the genetic material in a specimen in order to detect the virus. The reason this method is so ineffective is because it can pick up traces of COVID-19 from previous infections. For example, if a competitor were to have had COVID-19 even several months before the competition, these tests could still give them a false positive, causing them to lose out on the opportunity to participate.

     “After 10 days, if your PCR [test] is positive, that is just detecting dead soldiers — remnants of the virus that have persisted in your system,” said Vanderbilt infectious disease specialist Bill Schaffner. “It does not mean that you are infectious.” 

     Despite this test not indicating that these athletes are contagious, the Chinese government is still limiting athlete participation based on the results of this test. While it is very important that we limit the spread of this virus as much as possible, it also has to be done in an effective manner. For sports with only one competitor, a false positive test can cause an entire country to miss an opportunity to showcase its talent.

     A possible solution to this problem is using several methods of testing and proper isolation times. According to the Center of Disease Control (CDC), if you test positive for COVID-19 and you're vaccinated, you only need to be quarantined for 5 days without symptoms, or 5 days from when you started having symptoms. Once the person’s quarantine is over, they should be tested with a nasal swab test, as the PCR test can track down COVID-19 particles even after they are no longer contagious with the virus. This would help prevent athletes from being kept out of the Olympics for no reason.

     Being able to participate in the Olympics is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many people, and these athletes train their whole lives to get there. Therefore, they shouldn’t be denied this opportunity by a false positive COVID-19 test. 

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