What Happens To Olympians That Test Positive For COVID?

Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images.
After a year-long, pandemic-induced delay, the Tokyo Olympics are here — and so are a growing number of positive COVID-19 cases. According to the Olympic organizing committee on Monday, an additional 16 people have tested positive for COVID, including three athletes, eight "Games-related personnel," one Olympic Games employee, and four contractors. The recent wave of positive tests has brought the current total number of positive Olympic COVID-19 tests to 148. 
Czech Republic table tennis player Pavel Sirucek tested positive, as did Dutch skateboarder Candy Jacobs and a Chilean woman taekwondo player. Ryu Seung-ming, an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member and former athlete from South Korea, tested positive despite being fully vaccinated, according to a report from Axios. 
It has not been reported how the athletes and other Olympic personnel or committee members contracted COVID, though it should be noted that the International Olympic Committee did not mandate Olympians or staff be fully vaccinated against the virus in order to participate.
Prior to the start of the Summer Games, Tokyo reported its highest number of positive COVID cases in the previous two months, and infectious disease experts feared that the Games would dissolve into a super-spreader event, akin to Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett's nomination celebration or a Donald Trump rally. Now that a growing number of athletes and Games-related personnel have tested positive, those fears have been validated — yet the Games continue. 
So, what happens when an athlete tests positive for COVID-19 during the Olympic games? It's simple  — they're removed from the games, no longer able to compete, and immediately quarantined. While the IOC has a list of sports-specific regulations and best practices should an Olympian test positive for COVID, every athlete is assured that they will not be disqualified, according to reporting from The Washington Post, but instead received a did not start (DNS) or "sports-equivalent designation if they cannot compete." When possible, the athlete that tested positive will be replaced, too. For example, DeChambeau was replaced by professional golfer Patrick Reed.
Athletes are mandated to wear masks at all times when not competing, socially distance when possible, and take other precautions to prevent the spread of COVID — including washing their hands frequently and isolating. Per the IOC, they're not supposed to leave their accommodations unless it's to attend an event or compete, so sightseeing, going to restaurants, and hanging out at bars are not encouraged. Still, these precautions and safety measures have not kept athletes and other personnel from contracting the virus or spreading it to others, it seems, including Tokyo residents. 
While athletes test positive for COVID, Tokyo residents continue to protest the Games — protestors staged a demonstration during the Opening Ceremony and protests have persisted as the Games have continued. Despite the demonstrations, and valid concern as COVID-19 cases around the world continue to climb, it's starting to look like testing positive will be the depressing, de facto "medal count" of the 2020 Olympics. Yikes.

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