When Jim Souhan and I checked into our hotel Tuesday, we received a welcome gift: A plastic bag full of spit vials.
That pretty much sums up the theme of these Olympics. Spit, please. Now spit again. Be sure to put your bar-code sticker on that vial. And for God's sake, don't eat, drink or smoke anything for 30 minutes before your test, or you'll wreck it. And you don't want to know what happens if it turns up positive.
As members of the media, we have to be tested every day for our first three days in Tokyo, then less frequently after that. And as the Star Tribune's COVID Liaison Officer, it's my responsibility to make sure Team Strib understands and follows the testing protocols, as well as all the other infection-control rules. And there are A LOT of them.
Pre-departure duties included: Filling out spreadsheets telling the government of Japan where we planned to be every day for our first two weeks in Tokyo. Getting tested twice in Minnesota, 96 hours and 72 hours before boarding the plane. Tracking down certificates — required by the Japanese government — for the testers to complete, certifying our results. Filling out an application to use a mandatory health-reporting website. Finding a Plan B when a huge backlog meant we didn't get access to that site, to try and get our hands on a QR code required to get on the plane.
We arrived in Japan with envelopes stuffed with paperwork, hoping we didn't forget anything and praying the substitute QR code would work (it did). Once we arrived, we had to download a contact-tracing app and allow the government to track us via GPS to make sure we aren't breaking any rules. We're allowed to go only to the Main Press Center, sports venues and our hotel. No restaurants, no public transportation, no walking around.
Last night, we noticed a sign-out sheet at the hotel entrance, with a security guard nearby. We found out today we have a 15-minute window each day to pick up food or visit the local 7-11. At some hotels, the guard has a stopwatch. I'm not inclined to test ours.