Jill Biden Heading to Tokyo as City Reports Highest Number of COVID Cases in 6 Months

Jill Biden is heading to Tokyo on her first solo international trip as first lady in support of the USA Olympic team, even as the city is seeing its highest number of COVID-19 cases in six months, the Associated Press reported.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden and Jill Biden felt supporting the U.S. Olympic athletes was important. Jill Biden is looking forward to leading the delegation "at the highest level" as athletes face difficult conditions and an increased spread of the virus.

The first lady will host a virtual get-together for Team USA prior to meeting Emperor Naruhito, and will attend the opening ceremony.

Tokyo reported 1,832 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, just two days before the opening ceremony.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Tokyo Olympic Rings
First lady Jill Biden is set to visit Tokyo in support of Team USA in the Olympics and will attend the opening ceremony on Friday. Above, people gather to look at Olympic rings at sunset on July 21, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. Yuichi Yamazaki/Getty Images

Biden will stop in Alaska on the way to Japan, and in Hawaii before she returns to Washington.

She has a robust agenda for roughly 48 hours on the ground in Japan's capital.

The first lady is set to arrive at Yokota Air Force Base in Tokyo on Thursday afternoon and have dinner with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and his wife, Mariko Suga, at Akasaka Palace.

She is to return to the palace Friday and be hosted by Mariko Suga.

On Saturday, the first lady will dedicate a room in the residence of the U.S. chief of mission to former U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye and his wife, Irene Hirano Inouye. The senator died in 2012, and his wife died last year.

Jill Biden will also host a U.S. vs. Mexico softball watch party at the U.S. Embassy for staff and their families, and cheer U.S. athletes competing in several events before leaving Tokyo.

The trip opens Wednesday at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage. The first lady will visit Alaska Fisher House, where military and veteran families stay at no cost while a loved one is in the hospital. She will also visit the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage to encourage people to get their COVID-19 vaccinations.

The first lady will tour a Honolulu vaccination clinic before she returns to Washington.

The Olympic host city is now under its fourth state of emergency, which runs through August 22, spanning the duration of the Olympic Games that officially open Friday and end August 8. Fans are banned from all venues in the Tokyo area, with limited audiences at a few outlying sites.

Suga's government has been criticized for what some say is prioritizing Olympic sport over public health, and there has been little fanfare in the run-up to the Games, which were postponed from last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Imperial Palace said last month that Naruhito is "extremely worried" that the Games could accelerate the spread of the coronavirus.

Jill Biden is fully vaccinated. Psaki said the U.S. delegation will follow "very strict" health and safety protocols during the trip, including limiting their engagement with the public and keeping as small a footprint as possible.

President Biden is not attending the Games.

Jill Biden
Jill Biden will attend the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, even as the city is under a new state of emergency over a rise in coronavirus cases. Above, the first lady delivers remarks before the start of the finals of the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee on July 8, 2021, at Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. AP Photo/John Raoux

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