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Sporting Events Can Spark Covid Outbreaks, CDC Finds

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Fans cheer with masks on due to the coronavirus measures during the Ice Hockey National League match between Lausanne HC and HC Davos at Vaudoise Arena on October 10, 2020 in Lausanne, Switzerland. (Photo by RvS.Media/Robert Hradil/Getty Images)

An amateur ice hockey game in Florida might have fueled a small Covid-19 outbreak in June, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released Thursday that represents one of the first formally documented cases of the coronavirus spreading through sports, raising new questions as U.S. sports leagues press forward with their seasons.

KEY FACTS

A Tampa man reported coronavirus symptoms the day after he participated in the hockey game, meaning he likely caught the virus before the game, the CDC study found.

Five days later, at least 14 other people at the indoor rink had either tested positive for the virus or showed symptoms: eight of the man’s 11 teammates, five people on the opposing team, and one rink staff member — all 15 people later recovered from the virus.

The 22 players did not wear face masks while on the ice or in locker rooms.

The study is one of the first to research Covid-19 at sporting events, though scattered reports have emerged nationwide: dozens of people tested positive after a July football game in Kentucky, and 52 cases were reported after an Iowa baseball tournament.

KEY BACKGROUND

After states loosened their social distancing rules over the summer, many professional and amateur sports leagues eagerly resumed play. Despite the extra precautions most leagues have added, experts and CDC officials warned that athletes can still transmit the virus, especially in sports like football and hockey where close contact with teammates and competitors is almost impossible to avoid. But Thursday’s CDC study is among the only formal looks into whether sports games can become superspreader events. 

TANGENT

Several NFL teams have reported coronavirus cases in recent weeks, forcing the league to postpone some games. The Tennessee Titans are the hardest-hit team, with around two dozen infected players and staff. There is little evidence of any players catching the virus from an opposing team, but some observers worry that wider outbreaks within individual teams will become hard to avoid as players and coaches continue to traverse the country.

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The Sports Restart Has a Plan for Everything—Except a Coronavirus Outbreak (Wall Street Journal)

Sports cause outbreaks. Restart sports anyway? (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

-By Joe Walsh, Forbes Staff

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