Answer: Hockey and other youth sports provide an important vehicle for the physical, social and mental well-being of our children and families. The choice to participate is a personal one. There are responsible ways to play sports and that playing sports provide positive health benefits for physical, social and mental well-being, but there is always some level of risk. The chance of viral transmission from hockey gear or jerseys is unknown. Risk can be reduced by frequent hand sanitation, avoid touching the face and disinfection of equipment and jerseys after each use.
Question (John F. from Connecticut): Would you please provide some input as to what you would suggest be the protocol for a team who has a player who tests positive? Should they continue to practice and play games or should there be some protocol to ensure safety?
Answer: The infected player should be immediately isolated and treated as necessary. The COVID-19 case is reported to the local public health authorities and their recommendations should be followed. Any teammates who were in close contact, defined by the CDC as 15 minutes within six feet, need to be tested, and follow personal care physician recommendations from the last contact, since they could develop an infection at any point during that time period. The initial test is needed to determine if they were infected at the time of the contact, possibly from a common source.
Question (Caroline G.): Our youth hockey team is striving to implement the safest possible measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while practicing or playing hockey. Is there any reason that we should not adopt a policy that team coaches and managers must inform players and their families that someone else who was with the team (player, manager, or coach) tested positive? No names would need to be disclosed, just the fact that someone with whom others were on the ice tested positive.
Answer: Yes, all close contacts who may have been exposed to the virus should be notified without identification of the infected person in compliance with HIPPA laws. This protects the individual’s identity, but allows for teammates and families to take necessary action such as testing and self-isolating.
Question (Karen S. from South Dakota): I am the hockey development coordinator for a small, 100% volunteer association. The question I am asked most frequently is: “Why can’t we use locker rooms if the players are wearing masks?” We have hockey players in our association from at least six different school districts. Am I being overly restrictive to suggest we are minimizing potential exposure risk by not using locker rooms?
Answer: You should follow the policy of your local arena on the use of locker rooms. Multiple people congregating less than six feet apart in an enclosed space without wearing a mask are at increased risk for viral transmission. Avoidance of locker rooms is just another strategy to reduce risk. If locker rooms are being used, it is important to maintain social distancing even when wearing masks.
Question (Jack F.): We have an evaluation session in a few days where there will be at least 50-60 kids on the ice. With all the mandates or social distancing / hand washing / mask wearing, how do you propose keeping the kids safe with that large of a gathering? In our county, there is not a public mask mandate. I know that my family has been staying safe and have been overly diligent in taking all precautions to ensure optimal safety. I have no idea what other parents are doing socially.
Answer: Adhere to the local, state and federal guidelines on the maximum number of people allowed to gather in an indoor facility. USA Hockey, in conjunction with the U.S. Ice Rinks Association and U.S. Figure Skating issued a Returning To The Rinks guide for arenas and programs to consider during this time of COVID-19. USA Hockey also released a document on mitigating risk. Coronavirus (COVID-19) information, updates and examples of on-ice activities can be found here.
You can divide the evaluation session into smaller groups, stagger arrival and departure times, screen everyone who enters the building and establish separate routes for arena entry and exit.