That means indoor sports games can turn into big-ticket events, researchers said in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Weekly Report.
The game was played on June 16 on a Tampa ice rink and the next day a player, considered the index patient, exhibited symptoms of Covid-19, including fever, cough, sore throat and headache. Two days later, he tested positive for the virus, the Florida Department of Health reported.
Each team consisted of 11 players, all male, aged 19 to 53, including six on the ice and five on the bench at some point during the game, the researchers reported. Each team also shared separate dressing rooms, typically for 20 minutes before and after the 60-minute game, and no one wore cloth masks to combat the disease.
“In the five days after the game, 15 people presented with signs and symptoms consistent with 2019 coronavirus disease; 13 of 15 sick people had positive lab test results indicating infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, ”the researchers wrote. Two of the sick people were not tested.
While 62% of the players experienced symptoms of Covid-19, the on-ice referees did not, and neither did the lone spectator in the stands.
Ice rink well suited to Covid-19 transmission
Ice hockey involves vigorous physical exertion with intense breathing during the game and frequent contact between players.
“The rink provides a location that is probably well suited for transmission of COVID-19 as an indoor environment where deep breathing occurs and people are in close proximity to each other,” the researchers noted.
More than one player may have been contagious during the game, the researchers acknowledged, but they believe the index patient was the source of the transmission while still asymptomatic.
The median incubation time for Covid-19 is four to five days between exposure and onset of symptoms and ranges from two to 14 days, according to the CDC.
Analysis has been limited as not all players have been tested for the virus and asymptomatic infections may not have been identified.
“Indoor space and close contact between players during a hockey game increases the risk of infection for players and creates potential for a mass-market event, especially with continued community transmission of COVID-19”, concludes the study.
“The ice rink provides a place that is probably well suited for transmission of COVID-19 such as an indoor environment where deep breathing occurs, and people are close to each other,” they added.
Sparse information on Covid-19 disseminated during sporting events
There are few studies or published reports on the transmission of Covid-19 associated with specific games or sports practices, other than what has been reported in the news, the CDC noted.
In New Hamphire, 158 residents associated with 23 different ice hockey teams or organizations have been diagnosed with Covid-19 in the past two months, said Dr Benjamin Chan, the state epidemiologist, on Thursday. Of the 158 cases, 117 have been linked to separate outbreaks and 41 are not linked to a specific outbreak but are linked to ice hockey, Chan said. “Hockey has been one of the high-risk activities where we’ve seen a substantial spread,” Chan added.
Those suspected of having contracted coronavirus through their association with hockey have also potentially exposed others in at least 24 different K-12 schools across the state, he said, noting that the game was increasing. the risk of exposure and spread to other facilities and organizations.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu on Thursday ordered all on-ice activity at indoor facilities to cease for the next two weeks.
Other potential super-propagation events
Other documented cases of a super-spread event include a choir in Washington last spring, 53 of the 122 members of the Skagit Valley Chorale contracted the virus, and two died after attending two rehearsals in March.
“The act of singing, itself, might have contributed to aerosol emission transmission, which is affected by the volume of vocalization,” a report on the event by the CDC found.
Some public health experts have called a Rose Garden Ceremony at the White House at the end of September, a mass-market event after dozens of people who attended the event contracted the coronavirus, including the President Donald Trump and members of his administration, although it is not known exactly where the president was first infected.
The coroanvirus has also spread to meat processing factories and has been linked to an outbreak involving 57 participants in a high-intensity fitness dance class in South Korea.
Jennifer Henderson contributed to this report.
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