Experience has taught me… the critical difference between the US and Japan “Omicron Crisis Management | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Experience has taught me… the critical difference between the US and Japan “Omicron Crisis Management

Real report from a cameraman from Japan who participated in an anime event where the first outbreak of an Omicron Variant occurred in the U.S.

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on LINE
An email from Anime NYC sent to Mr. Kato (courtesy of Hiroto Kato)

On Christmas Eve, the 24th, the first “community-acquired case” of the Omicron Variant, a new variant of the new coronavirus, was confirmed in Tokyo. Earlier, on December 1, Dr. Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to the U.S. government, held a press conference at the White House and announced the first case of the Omicron Variant in Japan.

The second case announced was an American living in Minnesota, who was attending an anime event called “Anime NYC” in New York on November 20. The infected person was found in a test on November 24, and was in fact the first case of the Omicron Variant in the U.S. Hiroto Kato, a cameraman who was on a business trip to the U.S. at the time, also participated in the event. The real-life report by Mr. Kato, who was being monitored remotely, highlighted the difference in crisis management awareness between Japan and the US.

53,000 people from 27 countries participated in “Anime NYC”.

Just before 9:00 a.m. on the morning of December 3rd, I received an unfamiliar email in English. It was from Anime NYC, which I had participated in last month. I had already heard on the news that there had been a case of Omicron infection at Anime NYC, where I had participated, but to be honest, I was surprised to receive the email directly. It seemed to be sent to all the participants.

The email was titled “Important Update on Omicron in Anime NYC” and the Japanese translation was as follows

<An important update on Anime NYC Omicron
December 2, 2021

The Anime NYC team was notified today that one of this year’s participants has tested positive for the Omicron variant of COVID-19. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the participant developed mild symptoms on November 22, was tested on November 24, and has since recovered from her symptoms.

We are actively working with the New York City Department of Health staff who are coordinating with various state agencies, all participants who ordered their badges (admission cards) online, and our exhibitors, artists and partners. Participants will be contacted by NYC Test and Trace Corps or their local health department via email or phone for further information and recommended next steps. We encourage you to get tested.

We would like to thank our partners in New York City for their generous support and guidance today and throughout Anime NYC.

New York Anime Convention
November 19-21, 2021 Javits Center, New York, NY>

The content of the event is almost identical to what has already been reported in the news. The instructions are to make every effort to prevent the spread of the infection in cooperation with the New York health authorities, and that participants should get PCR tests immediately. It also said that they would be contacted by the New York health authorities or the health authorities in their place of residence.

Anime NYC is a comprehensive anime-related event that has been held at the Javits Convention Center since 2017. It is the second largest anime event in the United States after Anime Expo (120,000+ in 2019), the largest anime event in Los Angeles. This year of the Covid-19 disaster, 53,000 people attended, the highest level ever, although the number of people was limited. When entering the event, all participants were required to show a vaccination certificate instead of a negative certificate, and I stood in line for more than three hours in the cold weather to confirm this. I heard that some people who lined up before the doors opened spent more than five hours in the waiting line.

Everyone in the venue, including cosplayers, were required to wear masks and were warned if they took them off even for a short time. When purchasing tickets, people were required to write down their contact information, such as email and phone number, so that they could be contacted in case something happened.

The scene in front of the venue of “Anime NYC” in New York. I waited for over three hours in the cold weather (photo by Hiroto Kato).

The sponsors of the event were Crunchyroll (an anime distribution company in North America), Kinokuniya, Kodansha, Namco Bandai, and many other Japanese companies. The event is also supported by the Consulate-General of Japan in New York.

The email that I received said “All participants must receive ~~ email or phone call”, which suggests that in addition to tracking by email, they also tracked by phone. 35,000 people from 27 countries were emailed and 18,000 people were called….

A week later, on December 9, I received a second e-mail, this time from the New York health authorities. The contents of the email were almost the same as the first one, but it was signed by the doctor to whom it belonged, and it also contained information about testing sites in New York City. It said, “If you have symptoms, get tested immediately. Even if you don’t have any symptoms, please get tested.

I was really surprised to see the news. However, it had been 10 days since I had visited the venue, and I had tested negative for PCR in New York when I left the U.S. and for quantitative antigen at the airport quarantine when I entered Japan, so I did not feel particularly threatened. Of course, I wore a mask at all times at the venue, and other people wore masks, too, so I personally felt that it would not spread that much because of my participation in Anime NYC.

A large number of supporters came to watch the Emperor’s Cup semifinal soccer match between Kawasaki and Oita. For the first time in major sports in Japan, the upper limit on the number of spectators was lifted, and 17,595 people came to watch the game (Photo: Kyodo News)

Infected person found after Emperor’s Cup semifinal and subsequent response

The number of people infected with the Omicron Variant has been increasing in Japan, and a man who watched the Emperor’s Cup semifinal soccer match on December 12 was found to have been infected with the Variant on December 17. The Japan Football Association, the organizer of the Emperor’s Cup, presented a number of conditions under which people should refrain from coming to the event, as a “preliminary guide for visitors. One of the conditions is that “in the past 14 days (from the day of the match), the person has traveled to a country or region where the government has imposed entry restrictions or required a period of observation after entry, or has been inoculated with a person living in such a country or region. The man is an acquaintance of the woman who was found to be infected on April 16 after returning from the U.S. He has been criticized for his behavior in watching the Emperor’s Cup after meeting the infected woman.

The Japan Football Association, the organizer of the tournament, reported the man’s spectator area (SA seats, left side of the main bench, north side of the main upper tier, gate B, blocks 216 and 217) to the Kawasaki City side where Todoroki Stadium is located. The Japan Football Association reported the area to the Kawasaki City side, where Todoroki Stadium is located, and also announced it on their website. He appealed to those who were not feeling well to get checked. The Japan Football Association has made it compulsory to register JFA member IDs when purchasing tickets for the Emperor’s Cup, but for example, if a purchaser buys tickets for four people, the data of the other three are not registered with the association at the time of purchase. In order to reduce this “leakage” as much as possible, we asked all spectators to register their “QR code” at the venue on the day of the game, but since this was voluntary, the soccer association was not able to obtain data on all spectators before the game.

Also, the Kawasaki City Public Health Center, which is responsible for tracking infected people, did not track everyone by phone or email like Anime NYC did. How did they track them? I asked the Infectious Disease Control Division of the Public Health Center of the Kawasaki City Health and Welfare Bureau who they tracked and how they tracked them. I asked them.

We targeted people who were sitting in 79 seats in the vicinity of the man with omicron disease (SA seats, main bench, left side, upper main tier, north side, part of B gate 216/217 block). Originally, this area had 84 seats, but the man and his family, totaling 4 people and 1 seat, were not sold. We obtained the contact information of the representatives who had purchased each of the 79 seats through JFA and called them. I also asked the representative to contact the person who bought the ticket.

The first thing I asked was whether they actually went to the game or not? What was the address? That’s all. After confirming the address, I also told them that they would be contacted by the public health center in their jurisdiction, asking them to take a test. By the way, the inspection is not compulsory, but optional. Since it is an administrative inspection, the cost of the inspection is borne by the public.

The people in the 79th seat are not considered to be close contacts. All of them are wearing masks and watching the game quietly.

Talking without masks for more than 15 minutes
Cheering loudly

No one was cheering loudly. However, since the identity of Omicron itself was not yet well known, we contacted them to urge them to get tested just in case.

This was the response from the Kawasaki City Public Health Center. The Kawasaki City Public Health Center did not contact all participants (53,000 people) by e-mail or phone as they did in New York.

Anime NYC was the first event in two years to be held under a full quarantine system with the full support of New York City. However, although all 53,000 people were required to present vaccination certificates, the result was the first case of Omicron infection in the United States. We believe that the vindictive tracking was done in order to minimize the further spread of the disease from New York to the rest of the US.

The extent to which event organizers are involved in the tracking of infection is related to national laws and systems, so it is not possible to make a simple comparison, but it is clear that there is a difference in the sense of crisis between Japan and the U.S. in the extent to which people act on their desire to minimize infection.

In order to prevent the spread of the Omicron Variant, the timing of the Covid-19 test required for entry into the U.S. was shortened from three days to one day before departure. As of December 17, a total of 15 states, including Minnesota, Colorado, and Hawaii, were subject to the three-day quarantine (excluding transit). As of December 17, a total of 15 states, including Minnesota, Colorado, and Hawaii (excluding transit), have been quarantined for three days.

However, the negative certificate required for entry into Japan is still “72 hours before departure from overseas”, which is much less stringent than the “one day before departure” requirement in the US. Some of the Omicron infected people in Japan have developed the disease during the 14-day voluntary quarantine period after entering Japan. They must have tested negative at the time of entry, but it is said that 30% of them “slip through the cracks” at the airport quarantine.

The current situation is that the antigen test, which is said to be difficult to detect mutated Variants, is used because it takes a short time to find out the test results, and the PCR test is conducted only when it is judged that a detailed test is necessary. However, with this stance, it is believed that it is difficult to identify all those infected with the Omicron Variant. Unless Japan rethinks its crisis management methods, it will continue to make the same mistakes over and over again.

In front of the “Anime NYC” venue, there were multiple layers of lines. Those who lined up even before the doors opened waited for more than five hours because of the time required to verify proof of two vaccinations before entering the venue.
More than 50,000 people from 27 countries gathered to participate in Anime NYC. The crowd was so large that social distance was not possible, so masks were strictly worn (photo by Hiroto Kato).
There was also a corner for “Original God”, an online game operated by a Chinese game company (photo by Hiroto Kato)
There was also a display of New Japan Pro-Wrestling in the anime event (photo by Hiroto Kato)
  • Interview and text by Hiroto Kato

Photo Gallery7 total

Photo Selection

Check out the best photos for you.

Related Articles