September 20, 2021

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden arrives in Tokyo, Japan for Olympic Games, meets prime minister

TOYKO — Jill Biden launched into her first solo worldwide journey as first girl, main a U.S. delegation to the Olympic Video games in Tokyo, the place the coronavirus is surging and COVID-19 infections have climbed to a six-month excessive.

She arrived in Tokyo on Thursday, and her schedule consists of dinner with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and his spouse, Mariko Suga, at Akasaka Palace. She is to return to the palace Friday and be hosted by Mariko Suga.

The primary girl has a sturdy agenda for roughly 48 hours on the bottom in Japan’s capital.

She’s going to maintain a digital get-together with members of Workforce USA earlier than assembly Emperor Naruhito on the Imperial Palace. She attends the opening ceremony for the Video games in the night and is predicted to guide a slimmed-down delegation of two that additionally consists of Raymond Greene, who’s overseeing affairs on the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo in the absence of an envoy.

On Saturday, the primary girl will dedicate a room in the residence of the U.S. chief of mission to former U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, and his spouse, Irene Hirano Inouye. The senator died in 2012, and his spouse died final 12 months.

She’s going to host a U.S.-vs.-Mexico softball watch occasion on the U.S. Embassy for workers and their households, and cheer U.S. athletes competing in a number of occasions earlier than leaving Tokyo.

White Home press secretary Jen Psaki stated that President Joe Biden and the primary girl each felt it was essential that the delegation to the Olympic Video games be led “at the highest level,” and that Jill Biden seemed ahead to the journey to assist assist U.S. athletes, who shall be competing in a number of the starkest circumstances for an Olympic Video games.

On her method to Tokyo, the primary girl stopped in Alaska, the place she praised efforts to vaccinate residents in the rugged, distant state however famous the work will not be finished. Alaska, like different components of the nation, is seeing case counts rise, and well being officers have expressed concern with flattening vaccination charges.

“Even as we celebrate the progress we’ve made, we know that this last push is really the hardest of all,” Jill Biden stated whereas visiting the Alaska Native Tribal Well being Consortium in Anchorage. Getting extra individuals vaccinated will imply making the case “person by person,” she stated.

The primary girl was joined by the state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink, and the well being consortium’s chief, Valerie Davidson. The tribal well being system has been credited with serving to Alaska get off to a robust begin with its vaccine rollout, with tribal well being organizations sharing vaccines with the broader group and with the ability to determine how greatest to distribute their allocations.

Davidson stated that with cooperation among the many tribal well being system and state and federal governments, “we were able to ensure that some of our last language bearers and our last culture bearers were able to be among the first people vaccinated, regardless of their age.”

In a state the place many communities are usually not linked to a primary highway system, vaccine was delivered in some instances by means together with small planes, boats and sled canine. The vaccine was even transported out to a whaling boat in 8-foot (2.4-meter) seas, Jill Biden was informed.

About 52% of Alaska residents 12 or older are absolutely vaccinated, in accordance with the state well being division.

Zink, who has been one of many public faces of Alaska’s COVID-19 response, lauded Jill Biden’s go to. “We get excited when Alaska’s actually on a map. We’re even more excited when people come and visit our big and beautiful and absolutely wonderous state,” she stated.

Davidson, who’s Yup’ik, gave Biden the title Taurluq, which Jill Biden stated was the title of Davidson’s grandmother. “I hope I can try and live up to the woman your grandmother was,” Jill Biden stated.

Greeting the primary girl on Wednesday at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage have been officers from the bottom and workers and company on the Alaska Fisher Home, the place army and veteran households can keep freed from cost when a cherished one is hospitalized.

Theresa Nedrow, supervisor of the Alaska Fisher Home, referred to as the prospect to satisfy with Jill Biden “remarkable.”

“It was an opportunity of a lifetime,” she stated.

On Jill Biden’s manner again from Tokyo, she is about to tour a Honolulu vaccination clinic earlier than returning to Washington.

Tokyo’s COVID-19 infections surged to a six-month excessive Wednesday with 1,832 new instances logged simply two days earlier than the Video games open.

The Olympic host metropolis is now underneath its fourth state of emergency, which runs by Aug. 22, spanning the period of the Olympic Video games that open Friday and finish Aug. 8. Followers are banned from all venues in the Tokyo space, with restricted audiences at a number of outlying websites.

Suga’s authorities has been criticized for what some say is prioritizing Olympic sport over public well being, and there was little fanfare in the run-up to the Video games, which have been postponed from final 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Imperial Palace stated final month that Naruhito is “extremely worried” that the Video games might speed up the unfold of the coronavirus.

Jill Biden is absolutely vaccinated. Psaki, the White Home press secretary, stated the U.S. delegation will comply with “very strict” well being and security protocols throughout the journey, together with limiting their engagement with the general public and holding as small a footprint as doable.

President Joe Biden will not be attending the Video games.


Superville reported from Washington. Related Press author Becky Bohrer contributed to this report from Juneau, Alaska.