An infectious disease expert in Edmonton wants Alberta’s two NHL teams to reconsider their plan to play in packed arenas.
Both the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers have plans in place to play to 100 per cent capacity crowds. Fans will be required to wear masks and prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
But Dr. Noel Gibney is one of several provincial experts who doesn’t think that’s enough.
“On one hand, we have our health-care system in complete crisis and about to crumble,” he said. “But at the same time, life is pretending to go on as normal.”
Gibney criticized the provincial vaccine cards Albertans can download and print from the internet, saying they’re easy to manipulate and describing them as being “questionable proof of vaccine”.
He said he wants Alberta’s NHL teams to step up and cut capacity.
“For example, during the playoffs… smaller capacity crowds were admitted,” Gibney said. “So something around 25 to 30 per cent — that is potentially an option.
“Not an ideal one, but certainly a lot better than 100 per cent capacity at a hockey game where people are going to enjoy themselves and are going to cheer their teams on and they’re going to spread a lot of droplets all over each other.“
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Gibney reiterated that Alberta is at a critical juncture with the COVID-19 crisis, adding if numbers continue the way they are, hospitals will soon have to implement a triage protocol.
“What that would mean, basically, is that when the ICUs get full, and other patients come along, that we will try to make room in our ICU by taking patients off life support, who are not progressing, according to the specific protocols.”
On Thursday, the province announced 1,160 new cases of COVID-19 and said 226 people are in Alberta’s intensive care units with the disease. Seventeen more coronavirus deaths were also reported.
Dr. Shazma Mithani, an emergency room doctor at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, echoed Gibney’s sentiment, calling a full arena a “terrible idea.”
“One look at the state of our health-care system — should we really be having thousands and thousands of people in an indoor stadium yelling and drinking beer when our health-care system is at the brink of collapse?” she said.
“When we’re asking for help from the federal government from the Canadian military, from other provinces in order to help our crumbling healthcare system because of how bad COVID has gotten?“
During a news conference Wednesday, Flames general manager Brad Treliving said the team has always complied with existing provincial measures.
“So whether that be in terms of being fully vaccinated, in terms of masking, anything that’s required provincially, we were in compliance with,” he said.
“We’ve tried to be leaders in the community in terms of, you know, supporting anything health initiative-wise to make sure that we can keep everybody, not only our fans, but everyone in the province as healthy as we possibly can.”
Global News reached out to the Edmonton Oilers for comment and this story will be updated when we hear back
The Flames are scheduled to host the Oilers on Sunday in the teams’ first National Hockey League pre-season game of the 2021-22 season.