‘What went wrong?’: Rec hockey players want answers after COVID-19 outbreak in York area
A group of senior hockey players thought they had done everything right: getting vaccinated, wearing masks, following health protocols.
When COVID-19 swept through their ranks and killed one of them, they wanted answers from the local public health unit.
Here’s what York Region Public Health had to say in response.
The rink remained open and did not inform players about the outbreak. What are the rules for this situation?
Shouldn’t players/families/users have been warned?
Have other user groups at NTR been made aware of the outbreak?
• On October 8, York Region Public Health received a report of confirmed cases of COVID-19 related to a men’s hockey competition at the National Training Rink (NTR); our research found that there was a crossover of business between two leagues (an over 50 league and an over 40 league).
• On October 8, an outbreak among the over-50s was confirmed.
• Public Health sent a letter to the organizer of the Over-50 hockey league when the outbreak was confirmed.
• To date, there are a total of 15 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases, of which 13 are residents of the York area and two from the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.
• All cases played hockey on September 27, September 30, and/or October 4, and most cases played on the first two dates.
• All cases were determined to be symptomatic with onset of symptoms ranging from October 1 to October 9; the most commonly reported symptoms were nasal symptoms, new or worsening cough, headache and/or fatigue.
• All players are fully vaccinated and meet the definition of a breakthrough infection (COVID-19 cases with a symptom onset date that is 14 days or more after receiving the second dose of a two-dose series COVID-19 vaccine ).
• One person was hospitalized and sadly died on October 21; Due to privacy restrictions and respect for family, we are unable to share specific details about this individual.
• York Region Public Health actively participates in the investigation and contact tracing of affected individuals.
• Public health managed to reach the NTR and obtain the exposure participant list.
• All high-risk contacts related to this outbreak were identified and contacted directly by Public Health.
• High-risk contacts include individuals who played at the same time as a confirmed case; players who played the session on the ice before and after the affected team would not have been called, as they would not be identified as high-risk contacts.
• In the event that public health is unable to identify all close contacts and/or a risk assessment indicates that there is an increased risk to the general public of contracting COVID-19, York Region Public Health may issue a public notice providing the public with information about the dates and times of exposure and any actions to be taken by potentially exposed individuals.
• Based on the receipt of the participant list, no public notification was required for this scenario.
• Based on their age, all individuals entering the competition should be fully vaccinated to participate.
The players wonder why similar situations involving schools are declared to be outbreaks, but this matter was not taken so seriously. Can Public Health comment?
They are confused as to how this could have spread, as the men who tested positive did not share a locker room and were masked and double vaccinated. They wonder if it’s possible the virus stayed in the air after a group of younger, unvaccinated kids used the ice rink for them. Is this something that public health believes could happen?
• The transmission of COVID-19 occurs through large respiratory droplets and smaller droplets called aerosols, depending on multiple factors.
• The greatest risk of transmission is prolonged close contact (usually less than two meters) with a person who has COVID-19.
• Players who are on the ice at the same time, with frequent face-to-face interactions, are at greater risk compared to a person who enters the facility an hour later and has not had direct contact with a confirmed case.
• We encourage all residents to continue to wear a mask if necessary, to keep physical distance and to wash your hands well and often.
Should private rinks follow the same pandemic protocols as municipally-run rinks?
Are facilities such as NTR expected to clean/ventilate their facilities between user groups? The players said there was no evidence of that.
• The Ontario Reopening (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 applies to both municipally and privately operated ice rinks.
• NTR confirmed they were following COVID-19 protocols.
• All sports facilities should follow normal cleaning and sanitizing practices, including frequent disinfection of frequently touched surfaces and common areas such as entrances, counters, benches, lockers/changing rooms, toilets, etc.
• They must also have a COVID-19 safety plan that must include measures to manage the risk of contracting COVID-19, including cleaning and disinfection procedures.
• It was reported to the Public Health that the changing rooms were open and used by a few people; this was part of the completed risk assessment.
The men I spoke to believe they did everything right and wonder what they did wrong. Are there lessons we can draw from this situation?
• It is important to remember that COVID-19 is still active within our communities and unfortunately this leads to positive cases being identified in a variety of settings.
• Everyone should consider symptoms they may feel; If you experience symptoms of COVID-19, even mild ones, seek an assessment and test at a COVID-19 Assessment Center as soon as possible, otherwise stay home.
• We also see a worrying trend of individuals not testing immediately when they develop symptoms.
• Even if you are fully vaccinated, it is important to get tested; we don’t want to lose the progress we’ve made and can’t assume it’s not COVID-19.
• From approximately two weeks after the first dose, COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective in preventing COVID-19 infection, serious illness, hospitalization and death; a second dose is needed to achieve optimal and long-lasting protection. Third doses are now recommended for certain special health groups to provide better protection; visit york.ca/covid19vaccine for eligibility details.
• Although vaccination is very effective, there is still a chance that you will contract and spread COVID-19 after you have been vaccinated.
• Vaccination is a safe and effective way to prevent disease; vaccines save millions of lives every year.
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