Playing outdoor hockey during the COVID-19 pandemic

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When the province created its COVID-19 Response Framework, outdoor hockey and shinny were prohibited in Ontario’s red and grey zone restrictions.

In Tillsonburg, which was recently in the red zone, signs were posted at the J.L. Scott McLean Outdoor Recreation Pad. The signs made it clear that sticks and pucks were not allowed.

But that rule changed on Monday when Oxford and Elgin counties moved into the less restrictive orange zone, which allows outdoor hockey in small groups.

Yet the COVID-19 risk – even though it diminishes with fewer cases in the community – is still there… for now.

Southwestern Public Health was asked last week if outdoor hockey spreads COVID-19.

“COVID-19 is spread through droplets or aerosols released when an infected person talks, breathes, sings, coughs, or sneezes,” said health unit staff in an email.

“COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly through close contact from person to person, including between people who are physically near each other (within about two metres). People who are infected, but do not show symptoms, can also spread the virus to others.

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“While playing hockey outdoors allows for good ventilation and is less risky then playing hockey indoors, it is still likely to result in close contact between players. If a player was infected with COVID-19, any players on the ice would be considered high risk contacts and would have to self-isolate as they are at high risk of getting COVID-19.

“Wearing a face covering while playing, and maintaining physical distance as much as possible, would reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission during play.”

It was noted that the ‘Reopening Ontario Act’ (ROA) contains orders that are enforceable by provincial offences officers, police and by-law.

“Complaints, in regards to the ice rink, should be made to the town, local police or bylaw and they can determine what level of enforcement is necessary. They (the town) have control of changes that may need to be implemented with a progressive enforcement approach before ticketing is considered.

“SWPH investigates complaints relating to premises that usually fall within the jurisdiction of public health. For example, a restaurant that is open for in person dining despite the requirement to only offer curbside pick-up. Police on the other hand, may address breaches in gathering size limits both indoors and outdoors. Additionally, and dependent on the access to by-law officers, by-law will address issues such as masking requirements.”

NHL hockey resumed in mid January prior to Ontario coming out of the grey lockdown zone in mid February, but local health unit noted there were conditions.

“The province has allowed the NHL to resume play with specific precautions in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Players are following a safety plan approved by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health of Ontario and are regularly tested, have limited contact with anyone outside the league, and are isolated promptly if symptoms developed.”

cabbott@postmedia.com

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