Alberta and British Columbia announced that fully vaccinated people can cut their COVID-19 isolation periods in half, following in the footsteps of other provinces and the CDC in the United States.
"We are making these changes to help prevent disruptions in the Alberta workforce, especially for those who deliver services that Albertans count on," Alberta health minister Jason Copping said, according to CBC News. "We feel this step will help balance the need for continuity in the workforce, the well-being of Albertans, and our need to continue to reduce the spread of the Omicron variant."
The announcement could shorten the time athletes in those provinces who test positive are away from their teams. Under the new guidelines, fully-vaccinated people who test positive for COVID-19 but show no symptoms can leave isolation after only five days, instead of the previous 10. Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people who test positive still need to isolate for 10 days and all people need to continue following all other public health guidelines, including wearing masks and practising physical distancing when possible.
Earlier this week, the NHL announced it was adjusting its protocols to a similar five-day isolation period, but only in regions where local health guidelines allow. Since that announcement by the NHL, Ontario, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick have also shortened the quarantine time to five days.
The impact of the move on the NHL was seen Friday morning when Toronto Maple Leafs stars William Nylander, Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin were able to return to practice despite entering protocols less than 10 days ago. Head coach Sheldon Keefe said the three players could be in the lineup Saturday against the Ottawa Senators but a final decision would be made closer to game time.
The emergence of the new Omicron variant has seen COVID-19 cases rise across the NHL in the past month, with more than 80 games postponed as a result. However, all but one NHL player is vaccinated and many who have tested positive in recent weeks have reported mild to no symptoms. If that trend continues, the NHL could see fewer games postponed in the new year.
Editor's Note: The COVID-19 situation, in the NHL and around the world, is constantly evolving. Readers in Canada can consult the country's public health website for the latest.