“Although these [rapid] tests have a slightly lower ability to detect the presence of COVID-19 than lab-based PCR testing, they will provide prompt, same-day results that will reduce the chance of game participation by individuals who might have active infection,” the league said in a statement, which also noted it is seeking similar testing for Canadian teams.
As of Thursday, 49 players from eight teams were on the covid-19 protocols list. Players can end up on the list because of positive tests, symptoms, contact tracing or travel quarantines.
Other measures include better access to testing for family or household members of players. The NHL will also now be analyzing clusters of positive test samples with whole genomic sequencing to determine specific coronavirus strains.
The new measures come a week after other new protocols were announced, including removing the glass from behind the benches to help with air flow. The league’s Thursday announcement went a step further to that end with the removal of the plexiglass from behind the penalty box.
There are currently two teams on pause because of the virus: the Philadelphia Flyers and the New Jersey Devils. The Buffalo Sabres were shut down for a week, but they reopened their practice facility Tuesday. The Colorado Avalanche also reopened their facilities Thursday after a week hiatus. The Minnesota Wild, on pause for the past week, announced Thursday that it will reopen for team activities Friday.
Other measures announced Thursday by the league include the recommendation that teams provide all team personnel with KN95 masks. Previously, there was no specific requirement of what type of mask should be worn. Most players have been wearing a type of medical mask or league-approved facial covering. Players and coaches must wear masks off the ice. Coaches are still required to wear them during games and on the ice for practices.
The league is also requiring all team-related meetings to be held virtually. This will include coaches’ meetings and video sessions. In addition, the league is seeking to limit social interactions for teams on the road. While players are not allowed to socialize in each other’s hotel rooms, they are still allowed to mingle in team-approved social lounges. These lounges are now required to close at midnight.
Teams have also been reminded that all team personnel will be required to “remain at home and not leave their place of residence except to attend practices and games, to exercise outdoors on an individual basis, to perform essential activities (e.g., go to the doctor), or to deal with family or other emergencies and other extraordinary circumstances.”
The league’s initial health and safety measures sent out before the season spanned 213 pages.
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