NHL and NHLPA strengthen their COVID-19 protocols
NEW YORK / TORONTO (February 11, 2021) – The NHL Players Association (NHLPA) and the National Hockey League today announced the addition of several safety measures to their protocols to reduce the frequency of COVID-19 cases and increase their ability to detect. These strategies have been tested and validated in a medical context, and all measures have been approved by the medical advisers of the NHL and the NHLPA. These enhanced measures will be in effect until February 28, at a minimum. The NHL, the AJLNH and their respective medical advisors will regularly monitor the implementation and effect of these measures, in addition to continuing to assess potential improvements to the protocols.
Added rapid tests for USA teams : In addition to the daily PCR tests analyzed in the laboratory, the League is in the process of providing each of the US teams with rapid tests that can be administered on match days to players and team staff (as well as officials on the ice. ) who will work on the bench or near the bench during the matches. These tests are expected to be in place as early as today in most markets. Although these tests are a little less effective at detecting COVID-19 than the PCR tests analyzed in the laboratory, they will offer immediate results that will reduce the chances that an individual potentially with an active infection will participate in a game. If a person tested is found positive, they will be immediately isolated under the positive testing protocol, and contact tracing will follow immediately. This person will not participate in the match.
The League is currently working with the seven Canadian teams to determine the availability of similar tests or additional resources.
Isolation at home and at work : To reduce the introduction of the virus into a team environment, players, coaches and team staff traveling abroad should immediately stay home and only leave their homes to participate training and games, exercising outdoors individually, performing essential activities (example: going to the doctor) or dealing with a family emergency or any extraordinary circumstances. While players from several teams are already following these recommendations, we hope that the imposition of this measure across the entire NHL will reduce the risk of contamination by the community. It is also strongly recommended that household members of players (wives, partners, etc.) limit their discretionary activities outside the home. Food and grocery delivery is recommended to eliminate the need to shop in person, to reduce interactions with the community. We understand that not all social interactions can be avoided, for example children who have to go to school. Other discretionary activities of household members, such as social engagements, however, should be limited as much as possible.
Reinforcement of preventive measures : The NHLPA and the NHL will ensure that their staff continue to play an active role in educating players about prevention measures. They will emphasize the wearing of masks by players at all times when not training or playing, while adhering to physical distancing requirements.
Face covers : To reduce the transmission of the virus, it is strongly recommended that teams offer individuals in groups 1 and 2 KN95 masks. Once these masks have been obtained in sufficient quantity, individuals in Groups 1 and 2A will be required to wear KN95 masks in all circumstances where a regular mask should be worn, under COVID-19 protocols. Masks have been shown to be effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19 and, thus, the COVID-19 protocol requires that masks be worn whenever players are not exercising, including in the locker room. .
The fact that the masks cannot be worn by players on the bench does not mean that they should not be worn in the dressing room. The purpose of wearing a mask is to reduce the total exposure. Thus, whenever a mask can be worn contributes to reducing the risk of transmission of the virus. Sitting in the locker room before a game, between periods and after a game without a mask increases the likelihood of spreading or being exposed to COVID-19. The players have therefore been informed that the use of masks in the dressing room is important.
Rapid detection among household members : The NHL and the AJLNH encourage teams to improve the access of family or household members to tests and to sensitize them to be tested. The purpose of this measurement is to identify potential sources of infection even before transmission of the virus can occur.
Reduction of interactions : People on teams traveling abroad should reduce the amount of time they spend interacting with each other, including:
– Team meetings : All meetings will now have to be done virtually, including coaching meetings and video sessions. Several teams have already made the transition to this model as a way of operating on a regular basis. Due to the importance of this intervention, exceptions will not be granted, unless there are extenuating circumstances.
– Social interactions : Teams and players are advised not to extend the time spent together, unless all participants can maintain a sufficient distance and are masked. In addition, areas reserved for players in hotels must be closed at midnight.
Players who have recently tested positive – seat assignment revised : Evidence is emerging that an individual enjoys some immunity to potential re-infection with COVID-19 for at least 90 days after initial infection. By reconfiguring the allocation of seats in locker rooms, during travel or during meal times so that a previously infected individual is seated next to an individual who has never contracted the virus, the player with presumed immunity can act as a shield for players and staff who likely do not have immunity. For example, a player who tested positive less than 90 days ago should be seated next to a player who has never contracted COVID-19 or who recovered from COVID-19 more than 90 days ago. days. The League recommends that this measure be applied not only to players, but also to coaches and other team members.
Measures to improve the gaming environment
Breakdown on players’ bench and penalty bench : In addition to the removal of the bay window behind the players’ benches, we have requested the removal of the bay window behind the penalty benches. This will improve airflow to the penalty bench. To more easily determine how the puck left the playing surface and to add a safety barrier between any spectator and the players, arenas will need to install a net behind the players’ benches and penalty benches, where there was previously a Bay window. Prior to installation, spectators will not be able to sit in the sections behind the players’ benches or the penalty benches.
In addition, arenas that wish to accommodate spectators in these sections will: 1) erect a bay window in front of the section where the spectators will be seated, which must be at least 25 feet behind the players’ benches and the penalty benches and higher than the corridor where the players enter the ice; 2) install a canvas and place security personnel directly behind the penalty bench and in front of the spectators.
Epidemiological investigation and isolation : A pilot project using the player tracking system has been launched to more objectively measure the degree of interaction between players in order to improve the contact tracing process. The aim of this project is to determine which people should be more closely monitored or isolated based on their close contact with potentially infected players.
Sample sequencing : On a case-by-case basis, and when several positive cases are linked by epidemiological link, the positive samples will be sequenced to detect specific strains of the virus and to estimate how the transmission took place between the players and the other members of the team. who travel abroad.