How Senators player contracted COVID-19 likely to remain a mystery

With an Ottawa Senator becoming the first NHL player to test positive for COVID-19, Hockey Central Insider Elliotte Friedman joins Faizal Khamisa to discuss the latest developments.

One of the great challenges of the coronavirus street war is determining how an individual may have contracted COVID-19.

This comes to mind when unravelling the positive test of a member of the Ottawa Senators roster, the first confirmed case involving an NHL player.

The hockey club announced late Tuesday night that an Ottawa player had tested positive, was experiencing "mild symptoms" and put in isolation. The announcement went on to say all members of the team would remain isolated, as well, while their health was being monitored.

A subsequent statement on Wednesday added more information:

"The Ottawa Senators medical team is actively monitoring players and staff and following all appropriate and professional guidelines to help ensure the health and safety of our employees and the greater community.

"Players are being assessed and tested under the supervision of public health authorities."

No news is good news. As the time of this writing on Thursday, no further positive tests have been announced.

All players and Senators staff who were on the club’s trip to California from March 6-12 were instructed to self-quarantine, effective last Saturday. The team has assured the greater Ottawa community that the travelling group does not pose a public health risk.

The Senators have not disclosed the name of the player who tested positive, although it is possible he may step forward at some point, as NBA star Kevin Durant did this week. Durant is one of four Brooklyn Nets players who have tested positive for COVID-19. The other three are unnamed. Only one of the four was symptomatic, according to the Nets.

"Everyone be careful," Durant said. "Take care of yourself and quarantine. We’re going to get through this."

Why have so many NBA players tested positive (seven, and counting)? In part because so many are being tested. At latest report, five of the seven were asymptomatic, meaning they showed no symptoms of the virus and only discovered they were positive because they were issued a test.

After Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive (following his bad-karma stunt, touching media microphones), several teams that had recently faced the Jazz were also tested: including the Toronto Raptors, Detroit Pistons, Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder.

It stands to reason that if dozens of NHLers were tested, there would be further positive results. Generally speaking, outside of the Senators’ confirmed case, NHL teams are waiting for players to show symptoms of the virus before administering tests.

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For example, while the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings, who recently faced the Senators (March 10, 11), have not indicated they tested their players, they are leaning on the fact that none has exhibited symptoms.

"Players from the Ducks have been under quarantine at their respective in- or off-season homes since the NHL’s suggested guidelines were announced on March 12," the Ducks said in a statement. "No player in the organization has reported COVID-19 symptoms at this time."

The Kings released a similar statement.

How did a Senators player contract the virus?

It’s like playing a game of Clue, except this real-life mystery will likely remain a mystery. There are many clues involved, considering the Senators spent nearly a full week in the state of California, which was generating headlines as a virus hot spot even before the Senators boarded their charter plane on March 6.

There were already 20 confirmed cases in Santa Clara County, and health officials there had advised organizations in the area to avoid large public gatherings.

Nevertheless, the San Jose Sharks went ahead with a scheduled game against the Minnesota Wild on March 5 and the Senators game March 7. The Sharks played host to a third game after that warning, March 8 against the Colorado Avalanche.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

The Senators, of course, used the same dressing room occupied by the Wild a couple of days previously. This is where it gets dicey – players, trainers, coaches and staff share a lot of the same confined spaces, unwittingly playing Russian roulette in their surroundings.

There had been reports that in L.A., at the Staples Center, the Senators used the same visitors room as the now virus-laden Brooklyn Nets, who had played the Lakers on March 10 (the Sens faced the Kings on March 11). But in fact, the NBA and NHL have separate, dedicated visitors dressing rooms at the Staples Center. However, as Helene Elliott reported in The L.A Times, the Kings did use the NBA visitors room to conduct post-game interviews following the game against the Senators.

Clearly, viruses can cross paths as easily as these constantly moving professional athletes. They are walking through a minefield of germs. As are all of us when we travel.

To their credit, all NHL teams are in lockdown mode now, and complying with all the best advice and public health practices.

If the Senators or any other club finds another positive case, it will be announced. Until then, we all wait. And hope. We hydrate and isolate. And try not to hyperventilate.

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