“Today is a great day,” Elks president and CEO Chris Presson said Friday afternoon at a virtual news conference. “It’s the first time in many days we’ve had no positive tests.”
This leaves the total number of cases identified since the team returned from Vancouver last week at 14, unchanged from the team’s last update Thursday afternoon.
The team also released information on the team’s vaccination rate, stating that 63 of the 79 Tier 1 members (players and coaches) — 79.7 per cent — are fully vaccinated. The Elks said three Tier 1 members — 3.8 per cent — are partially vaccinated.
Presson added that as of Friday, 83.5 per cent of Elks players and coaches have at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
“When you look at… Canada as a whole, there’s not a province that has a higher vaccination rate than that.
“I think we should be proud of that,” Presson said.
Nationally, 82.7 per cent of Canadians 12 and older had received at least one dose of vaccine as of Aug. 21. Prince Edward Island had the highest uptake. The cumulative per cent of people who have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in Prince Edward Island was 79.7 per cent as of Aug. 21. As of Friday, 77.7 per cent of eligible Albertans have received at least one dose.
“Upstairs” Elks office personnel have a vaccination rate of “almost 100 per cent,” Presson added.
“I’m not sure what else we can ask from our players, staff, managers.”
The Elks CEO said he hopes the “negative rhetoric” changes and that the “human element” is not lost.
“I think we’ve been portrayed a bit of the bad guys,” Presson said. “There’s not a league that I’m aware of that’s not had multiple players test positive.
“This is part of where things stand.”
In an update at noon Friday, the team said its isolation period has been extended from seven days to 10 days, based on direction from provincial health officials.
The Elks said all Tier 1 players, coaches and staff will continue to receive daily PCR COVID-19 tests and remain in isolation through Aug. 31.
Health-wise, Presson said the players who’ve tested positive are doing OK. Mentally, it’s tough to be isolated and alone, he said.
“The guys are a bit worn down… but most importantly, they’re doing all they can to get through it.”
He said one player who tested positive required “additional medical attention” but had another health issue on top of COVID-19.
The team plans on returning to its facilities for in-person activities on Sept. 1.
Presson said the Elks still don’t know for sure where the outbreak originated but says he thinks the organization has done a lot of things right.
He pointed to the vaccination rate and other preventative measures in place, like contact tracing, for which the Elks use digital wristband trackers.
“We have contact tracing, but it’s done to mitigate risk from player to player.
“The last thing we want to do is for this continue,” Presson said. “Of course we’re doing everything we possibly can to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
He said the organization is going back to the original COVID-19 protocols that were in place for the start of the CFL season and the rules will apply whether individuals are vaccinated or not.
The Elks said the names of the players who have tested positive for the disease will not be released. The organization also did not disclose the vaccination status of the positive cases.
Any players that remain in COVID protocols when the team resumes on-field activities will be identified in the team’s first injury report, as per Canadian Football League requirements.
In a media availability on Monday, the Elks announced nine players had tested positive for COVID-19. The announcement came one day after the CFL postponed Edmonton’s scheduled game Thursday night against the Toronto Argonauts. That game has not yet been rescheduled.
The league has set out an 85 per cent vaccination benchmark for teams.
According to the CFL’s COVID policy, if a game is cancelled due to COVID-19 issues and it cannot be rescheduled, the club with the issues will forfeit the game.
If a team can prove that 85 per cent of its players under contract have been vaccinated, at least once and preferably fully, its players will receive their salary for the cancelled game. If the team falls below that 85 per cent threshold, the entire team will not receive its salary.
The CFL said the Lions — scheduled to play Ottawa on Saturday — would be closely monitored this week. So far, the team has not announced a positive case.
The Elks are scheduled to play the Stampeders in Calgary on Monday, Sept. 6.