COVID Outbreak Hits Fully Vaccinated NHL Team

10 Ottawa Senators players are out of action
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 18, 2021 3:34 PM CST
COVID Outbreak Hits Fully Vaccinated NHL Team
Ottawa Senators' Drake Batherson celebrates after scoring against the Pittsburgh Penguins.   (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press via AP)

COVID-19 has cut through the Ottawa Senators like a Zamboni through slush, despite all players being fully vaccinated—and experts say the NHL team's experience is a reminder that the pandemic is far from over. Some 10 players—around 40% of the roster—and one coach are now in the league's COVID-19 protocol. Games through at least Nov. 20 were postponed Monday and access to training facilities has been suspended, the AP reports. Epidemiologists say the outbreak shows that while COVID vaccines are doing their job by preventing serious illnesses, breakthrough cases are hard to avoid when unmasked people gather indoors, especially with the effectiveness of the vaccine at preventing infection waning over time, reports the Wall Street Journal.

"It’s hockey, it’s not like you’re going to have masking, distancing, ventilation working in your favor at all times," University of Toronto infectious diseases specialist Isaac Bogoch tells the Journal. Senators defenseman Michael Del Zotto says his sidelined teammates are showing symptoms but none of them are seriously ill. "Some guys have had some loss of taste and smell, and I think that’s about as serious as it’s gotten, at least to my knowledge,” Del Zotto told TSN Wednesday. “Everyone is vaccinated so that certainly helps, but it’s scary how quickly it can spread and how quickly it went through the team."

Bogoch says that for now, he recommends the league "carry on carrying on" with its current testing protocol. " When you think about how contagious Delta is, how many games have been played … all things considered, it’s going OK," he says. This is the first time this fall any major North American league has had to reschedule games due to COVID infections, the AP notes. Under an agreement with the players' union and the International Olympic Committee, the league has until Jan. 10 to decide whether to withdraw from the following month's Winter Olympics, which could happen if more teams experience outbreaks and more games need to be rescheduled. (More NHL stories.)

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