Dear FMC hockey / skating participants and parents,
Following up on our previous Covid-19 Compliance Alerts we want to again stress areas of concern but also a bit of encouraging news.
First, the more positive news. In the month of September, FMC ice rinks had approximately 220,700 visits (participants and spectators) and a total of five reported COVID-19 cases of players, coaches or parents. Given the imprecise nature of contact tracing it is impossible to determine if these cases emanated from hockey / skating participation, but the fact that we did not have a cluster of cases likely points to the person getting the virus in other places, but their involvement with hockey or skating triggered the notification and subsequent contact tracing efforts.
We wish that the number of cases was zero but given the community-wide surge in positive tests it is inevitable that our sport and facilities will see positive cases. In fact if we did not see any positive cases it would cause us to question reporting. One of the most critical elements of our efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 in our sport is how we handle positive cases. Identifying the symptoms quickly, getting tested, contact tracing and 14-day quarantine (of positive person and close contacts) when a positive case arises are absolutely essential to keep our sport safe and live up to our responsibility to our community.
Unfortunately not all the news is good. While the VAST majority of organizers, coaches, participants and spectators are doing a fantastic job of following the COVID-19 protocols and procedures, we are still having a challenge to full compliance in two key areas – distancing on the team benches and limiting spectators to one per participant under 21 years of age.
We know it is a challenge for coaches to police the player spacing on the benches particularly during a game, but it is crucial that we get to full compliance with this. The benches are a serious concern for epidemiologists because the extended proximity of players who are breathing heavy from exertion during their shift. This raises the risk of airborne transmission versus rapid movement on the open ice and it is why face coverings (coaches and players) as well as physical distancing are so important on the bench. Note that the face covering is not in place of physical distancing; it is in addition to it.
Where we are having the most difficulty with full compliance in this respect is during cross-ice and younger age level games where it is more challenging to keep players focused on their responsibility to stay distanced. We are asking program organizers and coaches to please redouble your efforts and develop solutions to ensure we can manage this aspect of our shared responsibilities to reach 100% compliance. It may be as simple as making an assistant coach responsible to monitor and enforce physical distancing during games to allow the head coach to focus on the game.
The other major area of concern is the spectator limitation of 1 per participant under 21. We realize the challenges this presents to parents with multiple children as well as the frustration that both parents cannot attend the game or monitor the practice. We are truly sympathetic to the issues this creates but need to find ways to manage the situation. Parents rotating the accompanying of participants, one parent waiting in the car with siblings, etc. may not be ideal but the alternative is no spectators at all or even a shutdown of the sport in extreme circumstances.
The purpose of this limitation is to reduce the risk that an isolated case could turn into a “super spreader” event. Excessive spectators make it difficult to maintain physical distance in key areas of the facility such as the entrance, lobby and exits. As we mentioned in our alert last week, CDC studied an incident in June at an ice rink in Tampa, Florida and found that the event was responsible for creating a cluster of at least 15 COVID-19 positive cases. At the recreational hockey game there were almost no protocols or safeguards in place for physical distancing or face covering. While we are fortunate to have state and local leaders/officials that take this pandemic very seriously and created guidelines to ensure safety in our sport, those safety measures are only as effective as our efforts to follow them.
Some municipalities around the state have started to pause all youth sports or suspend programs if they see systemic non-compliance. We are starting to see some ice rinks in the state completely ban spectators for all but introductory and cross ice programming. We don’t want to see this happen to our sport and that is why we need your help and cooperation. If your program / team does not have a dedicated person to monitor COVID-19 compliance, please recruit one. If your coaches need assistance to enforce physical distancing and face covering on the benches maybe a parent volunteer could assist from outside the bench at a safe distance? The point is we all need to own safety during this difficult time and do our part to protect each other.
We are all in this together and owe it to our ice sports community to work together to ensure we are always in compliance and creating a safe environment for our hockey and skating community. We truly appreciate the effort that everyone has invested in safety and want to be sure you realize that almost every team and program are doing an amazing job following the protocols. Those of you who are having a difficult time, we are here to help in any way we can to figure out solutions to your challenges.
Thank you from all of us at FMC!
Dear FMC hockey / skating participants and parents,