Fully vaccinated NHL team in Ottawa forced to cancel matches due to COVID outbreak

This is the first time this fall that a North American pro-sports league – basketball, football or hockey – has canceled matches due to COVID

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The Ottawa Senators will not take to the ice tonight against the Nashville Predators, and they have canceled their Saturday night game against the New York Rangers. They also canceled an earlier game against New Jersey this week.

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A COVID outbreak has put the NHL team on the sidelines, despite their players being fully vaccinated. Ten players and a coach have reportedly tested positive for the virus, which equates to about 40 percent of the team.

It’s one of the biggest disruptions to professional sport since vaccines became widely available, and for the first time this fall, a North American pro-sports league – basketball, football or hockey – has canceled matches due to COVID.

Leagues have actively persuaded players to get vaccinated. The NHL boasted a vaccination rate of 98 to 99 percent throughout the league on opening day, with 25 teams fully vaccinated. It includes non-player staff.

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“No one who deals with players on a regular basis according to protocols can be unvaccinated, so these people also need to be vaccinated,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in September.

The senators do not say much, but issued a statement earlier this week on the three canceled matches, “In the context of the National Hockey League and in light of evolving COVID-19-related health issues.” It required ticket holders to stick to their tickets for rescheduled matches.

“Health and safety for the local community, venue patrons and the organization’s staff and players are Senators Sports & Entertainment’s highest priority,” the statement said.

It was not immediately clear if any of the Ottawa players had symptoms of COVID, or if they had just tested positive during the ligamented test regimen. There have been reports of defective tests, with some Senator players testing positive, then negative during subsequent tests, and then positive again.

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Ottawa defender Michael Del Zotto told TSN that his teammates have nothing to do with severe symptoms other than the loss of taste and smell.

The league requires fully vaccinated players to take a PCR test every 72 hours, while unvaccinated players must take one daily. Vaccinated players should take one daily if they are exposed to a close contact that has tested positive. It includes team members.

“If someone tests positive, then everyone on the team is tested every day,” said Issac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto and a consultant for the NHL Players Association.

Bogoch is not surprised by the groundbreaking cases of the highly contagious virus and its variants in a sport where players are in such close contact.

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“The vaccines are extremely effective in reducing the risk of transmission, but they are not perfect. If people play a sport like hockey for a long period of time where there is close physical contact and they play inside without masks, there is a good risk of infection. . ”

The Pittsburgh Penguins also had an outburst earlier this month that put center Sidney Crosby on the sidelines for 10 days after he tested positive. The team has had eight players in the COVID protocol this season, including coach Mike Sullivan.

Bogoch says the NHL has done a good job of getting its players vaccinated and reducing the risk. “It’s not unheard of and not surprising that we see some outbreaks. The vaccines keep a lot of it under control.”

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There is a strong body of evidence showing that vaccines are effective in preventing serious illness and hospitalization and can also slow down infection.

A recent study by the US Centers for Disease Control and prevention found h inpatients who had not been vaccinated but had previously been infected with COVID were about five times more likely to test positive for the infection than people who had been vaccinated. The study of 7,000 adults admitted to the hospital with COVID-like symptoms compared how many tested positive for the virus with the number of vaccinations and previous infection.

As the NHL and other professional sports leagues return to a more normal state with arenas and stadiums filled with fans, COVID is still something they will have to contend with.

“It’s still here,” Bogoch says. “We must continue to do everything we can to reduce the risk. We are still in the pandemic phase, not the endemic phase.”

But Canada is generally doing well with access to vaccines, vaccination rates and minimizing risks, he says. “You can expect outbreaks here and there, but if all goes well, things will hopefully work out by next spring.”

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