A recreational ice hockey game in Florida became an “over-spread” event when 14 of the 22 players developed COVID-19 after the game, including players from both teams, according to a new report.
The report, published Thursday (October 15th) in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention magazine Weekly report on morbidity and mortality, emphasizes the particular risk of indoor sporting events for the distribution of COVID-19, the authors said.
The game, which took place on June 16 on an ice rink in Tampa Bay, Florida, involved two teams of 11 players each, according to a report by researchers from the Florida Department of Health. Typically, six players were on the ice and five on the bench at any one time, the report said. All players were men and ranged in age from 1
The game lasted 60 minutes, and the players spent about 20 minutes in the locker room before and after the match, with each team having a separate locker room.
The day after the game (June 17), one of the players developed a fever, cough, sore throat and headache and tested positive for COVID-19. Over the next four days (June 18 to June 21), an additional 13 players developed symptoms of COVID-19 – eight players were on the same team as in the original case, and five players were on the opposing team. An employee of the slide is also developing symptoms of COVID-19 in the days after the game.
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Out of a total of 15 cases (including the original case and the rink employee), 11 were confirmed to have COVID-19 by a positive test and two were not tested, the report said. Asymptomatic players were not tested, so there may have been additional ones asymptomatic cases.
Players had no other common exposures in the week before the game, and researchers suggest that one player spread COVID-19 to other players during the game while he was asymptomatic.
The new report is one of the first to document the spread of COVID-19 at a sporting event or practice, although there are a number of anecdotal reports.
“The ice rink provides a place that is probably suitable for transmitting COVID-19 as an indoor environment where deep breathing occurs and people are in close proximity to each other,” the report said.
The cold temperatures on the ice rink can also help spread the virus, as suggested by outbreaks in meat processing plants. Cold temperatures allow the virus to survive longer outside the body, including in the air, according to Wired. And one study found that new coronavirus particles could travel more than 8 meters in the cold, stale air of a slaughterhouse. according to Bloomberg.
The ice rink environment creates the potential for an “over-the-air event, especially with the ongoing transmission of COVID-19 to the community,” they concluded.
Originally published in Live Science.