A day after it was revealed that she supported the NHL’s hub city plan for Vancouver, BC Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry explained why in her own words.
“Like the premier and many others, I also think bringing hockey back to BC would be a very good thing,” Dr. Henry said during her usual media conference in Victoria. “But, let me be very clear, there are no exceptions to the rules or the public health guidelines that are in effect in BC. In no way will we compromise all the work that we have done and the health of British Columbians, the NHL, or any other group.”
This part will be confusing for some. BC is proposing a different set of rules for NHL players, staff, and officials, but Dr. Henry maintains that their standards aren’t being compromised.
There’s many reasons for this.
The NHL would be taking “extreme measures,” with every team having their players and staff tested frequently, likely including prior to arrival, with tests sourced and paid for by the league. They’ll arrive to the hub city in a private plane and stay in a hotel closed off to the rest of the public.
“I have reviewed that plan, and it exceeds the requirements that we have in place, even today. And it meets our criteria for protecting the community, without compromise,” said Dr. Henry.
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“[The NHL] had a very rigorous testing protocol, but more importantly they have a screening protocol that reviews health status every day, multiple times a day. They have proposals for where people would stay, they would be in separate areas, without mixing and mingling with other teams, as well as transportation to and from the facilities.”
Dr. Henry revealed a few nuggets of information about the NHL’s proposal, including the fact that players would not be permitted to leave the “bubble,” even beyond the first 14 days of arrival. She also revealed that the bubble would not include players’ families.
“Teams would have no contact with the public, with no spectators, and no families. So it is a concept that I have said meets our criteria. It is teams that are in small pods of less than 50,” said Dr. Henry.
“They would also be subject to intense screening and testing for the entire time. And it is not just a 14-day period of time. If Vancouver were picked as one of the hub cities, there would be a period of several weeks and they would be in this team bubble for that entire period of time.”
Dr. Henry compared players operating in the bubble to temporary foreign workers, saying teams would be essentially maintaining a “work quarantine.”
Another question that media and fans have been wondering about is what happens if someone within the bubble contracts the virus.
“If somebody did test positive, there would be a plan for how that team would all be isolated, like we do for other settings where people would all be tested and we would have a plan for managing that individual,” Dr. Henry explained.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly has said in the past that one positive test wouldn’t necessarily derail the entire playoffs, but it’s clear from Dr. Henry’s comments that it could delay them.
“There was the possibility, of course, and this is what I think the NHL was most concerned about, if people do test positive once they’re in that bubble, that could affect the entire tournament. There was provisions for what would happen with that.”
Despite her overall support for the NHL’s plan, Dr. Henry did reiterate that the staging of games wouldn’t come before health and safety.
“The resumption of games – and again without spectators – would be dependent on our progress and dependent on my assurance that these extreme measures would continue to be put in place so that the health and safety of everybody in British Columbia remains our number one priority.”