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A Hockey Game In Florida Led To A Covid-19 Superspreader Event

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Tom Hale

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Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist

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"The ice rink provides a venue that is likely well-suited to Covid-19 transmission," the report reads. Paolo Bona/Shutterstock.com

An ice hockey game in Florida slid into a superspreader event after at least 14 players were infected by a single sick player, according to a new case report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

The new report highlights how indoor sports venues can be a risky business when it comes to the spread of Covid-19. It’s also yet another example of how superspreaders a single person who infects multiple other people – are a major mode of transmission for Covid-19.

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As reported in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), the report details an amateur ice hockey game, including 22 male players aged 19 to 53, that was played at an indoor ice rink in Tampa Bay on the evening of June 16.

Unaware he was sick at the time, one of the players started to experience symptoms of Covid-19 the day after the game, falling sick with a fever, cough, sore throat, and a headache. Five days after the game, it emerged that a total of 15 people at the ice rink that evening (the presymptomatic first patient, 13 of the 22 players, and a rink staff member) started experiencing symptoms of Covid-19. Thirteen of the 15 ill people later received positive lab test results indicating they had been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. 

Since the players did not have other common exposures in the week before the game, the report concludes that this was a superspreader event: the presymptomatic patient managed to infect at least 14 people at the ice rink. Furthermore, asymptomatic people were not tested, so there’s a chance even more of the players were infected but were fortunate enough not to feel ill. 

As the report notes, an indoor venue filled with 22-plus heavily breathing people engaging in a contact sport is a prime place for the spread of Covid-19. 

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"The ice rink provides a venue that is likely well suited to Covid-19 transmission as an indoor environment where deep breathing occurs, and persons are in close proximity to one another," the report said. 

The question of sports venues has remained an ongoing problem for authorities attempting to impose social distancing measures. First of all, it’s important for people to stay active for both their physical health and mental well-being, especially when there's a global pandemic on. Secondly, sport is a major industry in many parts of the world, providing thousands of people with employment. As such, there has been some hesitancy to close down sporting venues, despite their apparent risk of infection. 

However, it isn’t just indoor sports venues that have seen such superspreader events. A previous MMWR report published in May found a single person infected 52 other people with Covid-19 – two of whom later died – after meeting for choir practice at a church in Skagit County, Washington State. 


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