‘Not like prison’ – gymnasts content with COVID restrictions before Tokyo test

By Jack Tarrant

TOKYO (Reuters) – At an upscale hotel in Tokyo, gymnasts from the United States, Russia, China and Japan are getting a taste of what more than 11,000 athletes might experience when the city hosts the postponed Olympic Games next year.

They are preparing for Sunday’s meet, which will be the first international event to be held at an Olympic venue since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Games’ postponement.

The one-off event is seen as a trial run for how international athletes may travel to and stay in Japan safely during the Games.

The 30 gymnasts are staying at the same hotel but on separate floors and have different training times to avoid contact.

“Before breakfast, we take a COVID test and they also gave us cell phones that alert us if someone has COVID (in the group),” 16-year-old eMjae Frazier, who had never previously travelled outside of the United States, told Reuters from her hotel room.

“They are being very safe and cautious but it is not like we are in prison.”

Team members are chaperoned from the team bus to their rooms and to the dining room for meals.

“The U.S. team is only allowed to be in the elevators (with the) U.S. team,” said Yul Moldauer.

“We can’t be in there with China, Russia or Japan.”

“We are on the 14th floor and we aren’t allowed beyond the 14th floor, only going down for food when it is lunch, breakfast or dinner time.”

Moldauer, who won bronze at the 2017 World Championships, said he wasn’t bored being stuck in his room and was enjoying looking at the view of Tokyo Tower from his window.

However, the 23-year-old added that he will bring a video games console if he returns for a longer period during the Olympics.

As well as daily COVID-19 tests, all gymnasts and team officials must pass through temperature checks and anti-bacterial sprays when arriving at the meet venue.

There are some benefits to the limitations, according to U.S. coach Tricia Scott.

“We have a lot more time,” she said.

“We don’t have to vie for space, taking turns on beam or taking turns on bars… so that part is very nice.”

Russian athlete Nikita Nagornyy told a virtual news conference later on Friday that he hoped this competition was a sign of things to come.

“I think that the competition we take part in shows that the Olympic Games can and should be held,” he said.

(Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

U.S. to send millions of rapid COVID-19 tests to states to support school reopening, other tasks

By Carl O’Donnell and Vishwadha Chander

(Reuters) – The U.S. government will send an “overwhelming majority” of the rapid COVID-19 tests it purchased from Abbott Laboratories last week to governors of states and territories to support school re-openings and other critical tasks, an administration official said at a press briefing.

Other top priorities for the newly purchased tests include day care centers, first responders, and “critical infrastructure,” said Admiral Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The U.S. government purchased 150 million rapid antigen tests for COVID-19 from Abbott in a roughly $750 million deal.

The portable tests can deliver results within 15 minutes and will sell for $5. They require no additional equipment, and can use a less invasive nasal swab than traditional lab tests.

Antigen tests are cheaper and faster than molecular diagnostic tests, but somewhat more likely to fail to identify positive cases of the virus than lab-based diagnostic tests.

U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly pushed for schools to reopen, but most of the country’s largest school districts have said they would start the school year with online classes, as states across the country have battled a spike in cases over the summer.

Girior also said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still supports testing asymptomatic individuals for COVID-19 who are prioritized by local health officials or in high risk populations. Last week, the CDC sparked outcry among many public health officials when it said testing some asymptomatic people may not be necessary.

The U.S. government has conducted 85 million COVID-19 tests so far with a positivity rate of just over 5%, Girior said. The mean turnaround time is 2.27 days.

(Reporting by Carl O’Donnell; Editing by Chris Reese and David Gregorio)

Factbox: U.S. COVID-19 tests – What’s out there and how well do they work?

By Carl O’Donnell

(Reuters) – Health policy experts say the United States must dramatically increase the availability of tests for the coronavirus if it is to safely reopen its economy.

U.S. regulators have moved speedily to authorize many new tests, but concerns still remain about tests’ accuracy, and some policymakers say new testing technologies need to proliferate to fully contain the virus.


Molecular diagnostic tests show who has contracted the virus. Most rely on samples collected from patients using nasal swabs. The samples are then analyzed using a method called polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which detects viral RNA. These tests can be highly accurate, in some instances detecting the virus in 95% of cases.

The first diagnostic tests to get U.S. regulatory approval required that a sample be shipped back to a laboratory to be analyzed, slowing the speed at which patients could receive results. More recently approved diagnostic tests can be conducted at the same location where the sample is taken and provide results in minutes.


– Roche Cobas SARS-CoV-2

Authorized for use by U.S. regulators in March, Roche’s website says it is currently shipping around 8 million tests per month. It requires a sample taken by nasal swab be sent back to a lab for analysis. Roche says studies show it can detect very low levels of the virus with 95% accuracy.

– Abbott ID Now

Approved in late March, Abbott’s rapid, point-of-care molecular diagnostic test can provide results on-site to patients within minutes. As of May 4, Abbott said it is producing 50,000 of these tests per day, and plans to ramp up to 2 million by June. A study conducted by the Cleveland Clinic showed the test detected the virus in around 85% of cases.


Earlier this month, U.S. regulators authorized the first antigen test, a new category of diagnostic test. This type of test scans for proteins that can be found on or inside of a virus. They test samples taken from the nasal cavity using swabs. Antigen tests can detect the virus very quickly and can potentially be produced at lower cost.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says antigen test production can potentially scale to millions per day. But they produce false negatives at a higher rate than molecular diagnostics tests.


– Quidel Corporation Sofia 2 SARS Antigen FIA

Authorized for use earlier this month, Quidel said the test picks up around 80% of COVID-19 cases.


Antibody tests take small samples of patients’ blood and scan them for antibodies, which the immune system produces in response to a virus. They can be conducted in labs or through on-site tests that provide results in minutes.

Antibody tests, also known as serological tests, are not as effective as molecular diagnostic tests in catching COVID-19 at early-stages, when patients may not yet be producing antibodies. But they can confirm if patients previously had the virus and have antibodies that might protect them against future infection.

The FDA recently tightened rules on serological test developers after a proliferation of unauthorized tests raised questions about their reliability. Researchers have not confirmed whether recovered patients who are producing antibodies are fully immune to COVID-19.


– Abbott Architect SARS-CoV-2 IgG Assay

Researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine say the test, which Abbott launched in April, has a specificity of 99.9% and a sensitivity of 100%, suggesting very few false positives and no false negatives. Abbott has already shipped more than 10 million antibody tests to hospitals and labs.

(Reporting by Carl O’Donnell; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)