In less than three weeks, San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich is set to lead Team USA Men's Basketball to another gold medal bid in Tokyo. Meanwhile, the new coronavirus cases in Tokyo have recently soared to the highest they've been since mid-May.
A Wednesday morning report from The Associated Press gave further details on the increasingly dangerous conditions in Tokyo, saying they recently reported 920 new coronavirus cases. Tokyo Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will soon be deciding whether Tokyo will be reinstating a state of emergency in the area, which would effectively cancel plans to have lower-capacity crowds at the Olympics.
After being postponed in 2020, the decision to hold the Olympics in 2021 has been unpopular among Japanese citizens, to say the least. According to a May poll by The Asahi Shimbun, one of the four largest newspapers in Japan, a staggering 83 percent of voters thought the Tokyo Olympics should be postponed or scrapped.
Nevertheless, even if restricted to the public, the 2020 Summer Olympics are set to begin after a July 23rd opening ceremony.
The conditions in Japan raise concerns about public health, particularly with the highly contagious delta variant now becoming the dominant variant in several countries such as the United States.
Despite the dire situations in Japan, Team USA is surging ahead, currently training for the Olympics at UNLV:
What are the risks to San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich?
Quick personal anecdote. Back when I was first eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in March, I quickly signed up for one, also scheduling one for a good friend. He received a Johnson & Johnson shot and was fully vaccinated by mid-April. Two days ago, after a long trip to Mexico, my friend tested positive for COVID-19.
By no means is this story meant to discourage anyone from getting vaccinated, which is still easily the most effective way to protect yourself and others from the potentially lethal coronavirus. It's also not meant to diminish the effectiveness of the vaccine, which has had very reassuring results, as reported by the CDC.
Still, the CDC itself has this to say about new variants of COVID-19:
"Current information suggests that COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States offer protection against most variants. However, some variants might cause illness in some people after they are fully vaccinated if the variants are circulating in the community."
In January, Gregg Popovich received the COVID-19 vaccine, urging others to do the same. "Science-wise, it's a no-brainer," said Coach Pop. "It's the right thing to do so we can all get on track again."
Given the variants of COVID-19 and Popovich's inherent risk of being more vulnerable to getting sick at age 72, I'd be wrong in saying there's no risk to Coach Popovich traveling to Tokyo. Although being vaccinated should protect against the common virus and most other variants, there's still not a 100 percent certainty he's completely out of the woods.
With all this said, I expect Coach Popovich to continue taking precautions as best as he can as he tries to capture his first gold medal as head coach of Team USA. Popovich and his star-studded roster will tip things off on July 25th at 8 a.m. ET.