News Coronavirus Controversy over virus contact tracing rules at US Open
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Controversy over virus contact tracing rules at US Open

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US Open tournament director Stacey Allaster confirmed that the group of players that have been in close contact with Benoit Paire before he tested positive for COVID-19 will be allowed to compete in the event.

Paire was withdrawn from the US Open on Sunday after news broke of his positive test, with the French No.17 seed replaced by Marcel Granollers – a Spanish alternate from the doubles draw.

At least 10 French players, from both the men’s and women’s draw, were found to have had close contact with Paire.

But, unlike the case with Guido Pella and Hugo Dellien, who were removed from the Western & Southern Open last week when their physiotherapist tested positive for the virus, the French players will not be excluded from the US Open this fortnight.

Instead, they’ve been asked to sign new waivers that restrict them from accessing certain areas on-site and at the tournament hotel.

“Contact tracing has been executed, decisions have been made, and we’re continuing on to have those individuals in the competition based on the medical science and all of those facts. They will be in the competition starting this morning,” Allaster told the Tennis Channel on the opening day of action in New York.

The decision appears at odds with the US Open’s protocols that dictate a player be quarantined for 14 days if they have come in close contact with an individual who has tested positive.

But Allaster insists the rules have been followed to a tee.

“What’s really important is that all of the safety and the medical health protocols that have been approved by the state and are now being implemented and overseen by the US Open medical team are all being executed exactly the way that we had intended,” said the tournament director.

French doubles player Edouard Roger-Vasselin is one of those who have been asked to sign new waivers.

“To sum up, we are in the bubble of a bubble,” he told L’Equipe about the current situation.

Roger-Vasselin explained he has been asked to only dine in his room, to take the stairs and not the elevator, to notify the tournament of his departure time from the hotel so they can send him a private car, and that he doesn’t have access to the locker room at the stadium.

He says he can only practice with other players who have been in contact with Paire, and can only see his doubles partner Jurgen Melzer on the court and during their matches.

“The other big question is also knowing what happens to you if you lose? No one has been able to tell me yet. Do you have to stay in quarantine? Suddenly it makes you want to win even more,” he told the French daily.

There have been mixed responses from the rest of the field regarding the US Open’s decision to keep the players in the draw.

Second seed Dominic Thiem feels safe in the bubble while world No. 228 Noah Rubin, who can get into the singles draw as an alternate from the doubles competition, slammed the US Open for seemingly switching positions.

“I think there is no safer place in the world right now than here. Maybe you can lock yourself somewhere in a cave or something, I don’t know, in the middle of the sea. Otherwise it’s super safe here. We are in a bubble,” Thiem said on Saturday.