The Vancouver Canucks say the COVID-19 outbreak that has sidelined the NHL team is linked to a variant of the virus.
The team says there have been 25 positive cases, including 18 players on the Canucks roster, three players from the team’s taxi squad, and four staff members. One additional player is considered a close contact.
Team physician Dr. Jim Bovard and infectious disease physician Dr. Josh Douglas say all players and staff remain in quarantine.
The Canucks say the team has confirmed that a COVID-19 variant is involved in the outbreak, and full genome sequencing is being conducted by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control to determine which specific variant.
“An ongoing investigation by Vancouver Coastal Health and club contact tracing staff attributes the source infection to a single individual obtained in a community setting, which has since been identified by public health as a public exposure location,” Douglas and Bovard said in a joint statement.
“Rapid spread of infection throughout the team indicates a link between contacts and the primary case.”
The Canucks have been off the ice since the NHL and B.C. health officials postponed a March 31 game with Calgary Flames and closed team areas in Rogers Arena following confirmation of three positive COVID-19 test results over a period of two days.
The Canucks’ outbreak began on March 30 when forward Adam Gaudette was pulled off the ice midway through practice after his test result came back positive.
A total of six Canucks games have now been postponed.
“The health and safety of players, staff, families and the greater community remain the utmost priority,” Douglas and Bovard said.
“COVID-19 infections are rising in B.C. This is a stark reminder of how quickly the virus can spread and its serious impact, even among healthy, young athletes.”
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday that she is unaware of whether the Canucks outbreak is linked to the P1 variant. The variant, which was first identified in Brazil, has been spreading in B.C. but the B.1.1.7 variant, associated with the U.K., is still the most common variant of concern in the province.
Henry said the outbreak is proof that the spread of COVID-19 can happen very quickly despite routine testing protocols and other measures protocols to try and protect people as much as possible.
“My heart goes out to the Canucks,” she said. “I know Vancouver Coastal is working very closely with them to make sure that they get the support that they need, that the team members and their families are assessed and tested and get the health care that they need as well.”
“This is a cautionary tale for all of us and for young people. We’ve seen this happen in Whistler, in other parts of the province as well, that we think it’s OK to have those interconnections with our network, but then we go to work and we spread it, and the chains spread from there.”
— With files from The Canadian PressView link »