COVID-19 variant responsible for NHL Canucks’ outbreak

A highly contagious variant of the coronavirus is responsible for 25 players and coaches within the Vancouver Canucks organization testing positive for the disease, the team said Wednesday.

The Canucks have had six games postponed because of the outbreak, which began a little over a week ago, and has left players bedridden, according to ESPN.

While Vancouver said full genome sequencing is being conducted by local health officials to determine the variant, the P.1 variant has recently caused an uptick in cases in British Columbia, the province in which the team is based.

The variant, which first appeared in Brazil, was responsible for at least 737 of the 2,771 cases of the virus detected over the last month, according to local health officials.

The Canucks said a “single individual” was responsible for the outbreak after being infected in a “community setting, which has since been identified as a public exposure location.”

Forward Adam Gaudette’s positive test on March 30 led to the first of the six Canucks postponements, but it is unclear whether he was the first to contract the virus.

The Vancouver Canucks haven't played since late March due to a team COVID-19 outbreak.
The Vancouver Canucks haven’t played since late March due to a team COVID-19 outbreak.
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Twenty-one players, including three members from the taxi squad, and four members of the coaching staff have tested positive, while another player is considered a close contact.

“This is a stark reminder of how quickly the virus can spread and its serious impact, even among healthy, young athletes,” the team said in a statement.

British Columbia officials have closed indoor dining and the popular Whistler ski resort until April 19 in light of the rise in cases.

The B117 variant, first detected in the United Kingdom, is also responsible for many of the coronavirus cases in Canada.

While scientists are confident COVID-19 vaccines will provide protection against the variants, Canada has struggled in its rollout.

Canada has administered at least one vaccine dose to 15 percent of its population as of April 6, according to Oxford’s Our World in Data website, ranking below world leaders, the United States (about 32 percent), U.K. (about 46 percent) and Israel (about 60 percent),

Some players in the US have been inoculated, including the Rangers on Wednesday, but Canadian teams might not have access to the vaccines until June, during the Stanley Cup playoffs, according to the Edmonton Journal.

The seven Canadian hockey teams have played in a Canada-only division, to eliminate travel between the two countries.