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As concern over more COVID-19 cases grow, cancellation of Olympics is considered

British television is reporting 10 more positive cases in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of people affected to 68.
Credit: KARE 11

MINNEAPOLIS — With just three days to go, the head of one of the Olympic committees couldn't rule out on Tuesday whether the games could still be canceled at the last minute.

The reason?

Rising cases of COVID-19.

Already a year late due to the pandemic, new infections are overshadowing last minute preps. Minnesota public health officials fear it will only get worse.

"I think there is a high risk of a widespread outbreak within that so called bubble," says Rebecca Wurtz, Associate Professor within the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health.

There are 11,000 athletes from more than 200 countries. Dr. Wurtz is concerned that while they'll put their own medals around their neck due to social distancing, athletes will still eat in crowded cafeterias and sleep three to a room.

"There was an opportunity to plan that doesn't seem as though it occurred in a really innovative way," said Dr. Wurtz. "They've chosen to emphasize odd aspects of infection control to me."

She also said all athletes should have been required to get vaccinated before traveling to Japan where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports only 22% of the population is fully-vaccinated compared to 56% in the States.

But a University of Minnesota faculty representative for the Olympics says, that's not reason enough to cancel them.

"I think you're at the point now where it's kind of like a train has left the station, it's almost impossible to stop it now," said Donald Dengel, who is a professor within the University of Minnesota’s School of Kinesiology, where he directs the Laboratory of Integrative Human Physiology.

Dengel says Tokyo's financial losses will be seen across ticket, hotel and food sales. Plus, the number of tourists post-Olympics may fall too, for several years to come.

"Unfortunately, it will substantially impact that city, that country, and probably their economy a little bit," said Dengel.

All of that, Dengel says, could also make other cities think twice about considering a bid for future competitions. Paris is already hosting in 2024, Los Angeles in 2028 and Brisbane in 2032. 

You can watch the Olympics right here on KARE 11 starting Friday.