On Friday evening reports surfaced that there had been positive tests for COVID-19 at the St. Louis Blues Phase 2 training group. Today the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has reported, unconfirmed by the team or the NHL, that four players and one member of the coaching staff have tested positive.
The report includes sourced information that a trip to a local bar by some players may have led to some of the infections.
The official Phase 2 protocol includes this on Social Distancing policies:
1. SOCIAL DISTANCING:
• Players and “Player Access” Club personnel shall maintain 6-foot physical distance (“social distancing”) from each other at all times while in, and outside of, the Club facilities.
• Players shall be discouraged from socializing with one another in close contact while at (or outside of) the Club’s facilities.
• The only exception to social distancing restrictions while in the Club facility would be medical encounters (e.g., one-on-one treatment sessions with an Athletic Therapist or physician examinations of a Player where physical distancing cannot be employed).
The Post-Dispatch reports that Bill Daly, Deputy Commissioner of the NHL, spoke to them about this issue. He did not directly confirm their information on these particular positive tests, but he did say that the league is not necessarily surprised by events to date:
“I think it’s fair to say that our experience to this point is consistent with what we expected,” he said via email. “We didn’t go down this road thinking we were not going to see any positives. Of course we were going to see positives.
“Especially given that we had players spread all across the globe and facing various conditions with respect to their individual behaviors, their methods of conditioning, their respective locations and their various modes of travel.
“What we didn’t want to see, and what we wanted (and need) to avoid are mini-outbreaks. That’s why conservative approaches to response management is so critical at this stage.”
Daly said the proposed Phase 3 (training camp) protocol “will certainly employ enhanced precautions and mitigation measures, but we are also relying on the structure and rigor of mandatory training camp activities to provide perhaps a less risky environment than a collection of voluntary skates, some being held inside our Phase 2 ‘safe haven’, and some engaged in outside.”
The Blues practice facility is a mixed-use public and private facility, and has been open to the public since June 15 on a limited basis. Bars in the St. Louis area have been open since early June with restrictions on occupancy that vary due to location.
The last NHL announcement on test results was Monday, June 29.