“We are still assessing the feasibility of the First Lady attending, and our advance team arrives in Tokyo on Friday,” said Michael LaRosa, the first lady’s press secretary, in a statement to CNN on Thursday.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki also told reporters Thursday that the White House maintains its support for US athletes traveling to Japan to compete in the Olympics.
“The President supports the Tokyo Olympic Games and the public health measures necessary to protect athletes, staff, and spectators. He has pride in the US athletes who have trained for Tokyo Games and will be competing in the best traditions of the Olympic spirit,” Psaki said.
The US is in “close contact” with the Japanese government on planning and public health measures, Psaki added.
“We’re well aware of the careful preparations, including the public health measures necessary to protect athletes, staff, and spectators, that the government and international committee has undertaken, which is why, as we said, we support the Games moving forward,” she said.
The decision to ban spectators comes as Tokyo reported 920 new infections for Wednesday — the highest daily caseload since the middle of May.
After the Summer Games were pushed back last year over concerns about the pandemic, Olympic organizers said last month that spectators would be allowed at the Games, with a cap of 10,000 people per venue or 50% of venue capacity. Organizers had already decided to ban overseas fans from the stands in March.
Earlier Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci expressed confidence in Covid-19 safety protocols at the forthcoming Olympics in Tokyo and suggested that he was not concerned about the first lady’s attendance.
“That’s going to be up to the first lady. I believe that there’s no reason right now given the situation — the protocol to protect her health, I think, will be also rather stringent, so I don’t have a concern about that. But the final choice of what she’d do, obviously, is up to her,” Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser and the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said in response to a question from CNN’s Kaitlan Collins.
Fauci noted “quite strict and stringent” protocols in place for the athletes, which he described as “quite impressive.”
As late as last week,the President suggested that the first lady was likely to attend the games, telling reporters, “We’re trying to work that out now. That’s the plan.”
CNN’s Junko Ogura, Chie Kobayashi and Nectar Gan contributed to this report.