This week, CBS News correspondent Jamie Yuccas joins chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett from Beijing to talk about what it’s been like to cover the 2022 Winter Olympics, with extremely rigid COVID-19 protocols in place, and what it has been like navigating the strict COVID-19 protocols in place and reporting under the watchful eye of Chinese officials.
Chinese officials and the media in Beijing: “Nobody’s come to me and said, ‘You need to present it this way or you can’t say this.’ I think we were all pretty well versed, and talked about the things that we would talk about and not talk about as a group. We have burner phones with us, burner computers with us. I did not bring my personal cell phone with me at all because I was told of the security concerns here. I have family and friends who have traveled to China in the past who said, ‘Just don’t bring it. It’s not worth it.’
The one thing that has happened and look, I don’t know what’s true, but Jack and I, my producer, one day we’re talking about the fact that we really needed more bottled water in our room. We were just talking in the hotel to ourselves. And all of a sudden, the next day when cleaning came, we both had 12 bottles of water in our room. So I have to believe that there are people listening.”
COVID precautions and the Beijing “bubble”: “I can’t get out of the loop. We take a bus from our hotel into the workspace, which is here… I can go to different sporting venues and watch some of the sporting venues. You have to wear your your KN-95 and N-95 [masks]… We get tested every single day. It’s a throat swab here in Beijing. You know those results come back sometime in the afternoon. If we don’t hear from anybody, we’re clear we keep going.
“But really, it’s been interesting because you have to kind of navigate the transportation system here. Being in a closed loop, there’s actually three different sites. There’s Beijing, and then there’s two mountain sites where the skiing and snowboarding and all those types of events are going on. You have to take train systems up there. You board from a completely different platform. They keep you separated from anyone in the general public.
“We even have traffic lanes here dedicated strictly to the buses and taxis. And the one interesting thing I want to tell you about that, that we read in our playbook is that if for some reason there is an accident with the general population of China, with our bus or taxi, the Chinese population is supposed to stay very far away from us. It says- don’t help them. Basically, let emergency crews get on scene because they do not want to have any spread between these games and the rest of the population of China when it comes to COVID.
“You had to be boosted. I had to have two COVID approved tests by facilities that were approved by the Chinese government before I was able to board my plane. I was temperature-checked on the plane. When I landed, I had a nasal swab and a throat swab. And now I have had throat swabs every day that I’ve been here. Every morning I have to enter in my health app, my temperature.”
Mental health and the athletes: “I think it’s really important because I think we in the past have always thought of athletes, especially at this level, as the kind of people who are resilient and they just need to suck it up and get through it. And I think Michael Phelps, Simone Biles changed that narrative. And you really have a generation of athletes now at a time where the country is talking about mental health, especially with COVID, that I think there’s more understanding and empathy around it… What they’ve told me, the athletes, is it’s made them better at their performance. So it’ll be interesting to see how that conversation transpires takes place and then where we go from there.”
Executive producer: Arden Farhi
Producers: Jamie Benson, Jacob Rosen, Sara Cook and Eleanor Watson