Pushing forth in a pandemic, these Games were meant to be, as the International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said last year, “the light at the end of this dark tunnel the whole world is going through.” Yet they were often claustrophobic and cut off from society, with capacious venues across Tokyo repurposed into cloistered safe houses.
They were, in this way, paradoxical, uncanny and hard to wholly comprehend. They were a feat of organizational planning and execution, even amid arguments about whether they should be happening in the first place. They were stubbornly called Tokyo 2020, a retrograde name that reminded everyone of the meandering path traveled to this point. They were a made-for-television spectacle, stage-managed at times to the point of absurdity.
For athletes, these were an Olympics of survival, of resilience, of getting by and sometimes, in the end, being OK with falling short of a target. Yet even among medalists, there were feelings of ambivalence about being here, about enduring the alienating circumstances of one of the oddest Olympics in history.
The coronavirus pandemic forced athletes to travel and perform here without the presence of friends or family, to say nothing of fans. They spent their time largely confined to their rooms, specially arranged buses and sports venues.
Though the lasting effects of the Olympics on Japan will be determined only in the weeks to come, early signs showed that the health protocols — the effort to cut off thousands of visitors from Tokyo residents — seemed to work, at least in the short term. At a news conference on Friday, Bach reported that 571,000 screening tests had been performed at the Olympics, returning a positivity rate of just 0.02 percent.
But the path to that point, the means of establishing what an I.O.C. spokesman called a “parallel world” inside the Games, has had an unmistakably estranging effect.
As the pandemic upended life in the United States, more than one million children who had been expected to enroll in public schools did not show up, either in person or online. The missing students were concentrated in the younger grades, with the steepest drop in kindergarten — more than 340,000 students, according to government data.
Now, the first analysis of enrollment at 70,000 public schools across 33 states offers a detailed portrait of these kindergartners. It shows that just as the pandemic lay bare vast disparities in health care and income, it also hardened inequities in education, setting back some of the most vulnerable students before they spent even one day in a classroom.
The analysis by The New York Times in conjunction with Stanford University shows that in those 33 states, 10,000 local public schools lost at least 20 percent of their kindergartners. In 2019 and in 2018, only 4,000 or so schools experienced such steep drops.
The months of closed classrooms took a toll on nearly all students, and families of all levels of income and education scrambled to help their children make up for the gaps. But the most startling declines were in neighborhoods below and just above the poverty line, where the average household income for a family of four was $35,000 or less. The drop was 28 percent larger in schools in those communities than in the rest of the country.
While kindergarten is optional in many states, educators say there is no great substitute for quality, in-person kindergarten. For many students, it’s their introduction to school. They are taught to cooperate and to identify numbers and letters. They learn early phonics and number sense — the concept of bigger and smaller quantities.
Yet in the country’s poorest neighborhoods, tens of thousands of 6-year-olds will begin first grade having missed out on a traditional kindergarten experience.
“We have to be deeply concerned,” said Thomas S. Dee, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, who worked with The Times on the analysis.
Americans over 65, the age group that is most vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus, got an early start on Covid-19 vaccination and have the highest rate in the country — more than 80 percent are fully inoculated.
But with infections increasing once more, and hospitalization rising among older adults, a large-scale new study in the Journals of Gerontology provides a timely warning: Covid can look different in older patients.
“People expect fever, cough, shortness of breath,” said Allison Marziliano, lead author of the study. But when the researchers combed through the electronic health records of nearly 5,000 people, all over the age of 65, who were hospitalized for Covid-19 at a dozen hospitals in March and April of 2020, they found that one-third had arrived with other symptoms, unexpected ones.
The team, searching through records using language software, found that about one-quarter of older patients reported a functional decline. “This was falls, fatigue, weakness, difficulty walking or getting out of bed,” said Dr. Marziliano, a social and health psychologist at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research, part of the large Northwell Health system across New York State.
Eleven percent experienced altered mental status — “confusion, agitation, forgetfulness, lethargy,” she said. About half the group with atypical symptoms also suffered from at least one of the classic Covid problems — fever, trouble breathing, coughing.
“Clinicians should know, older adults should know, their caregivers should know: If you see certain atypical symptoms, it could be Covid,” Dr. Marziliano said.