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Thread: 'We need to learn to live with this virus, including with sports': Manitoba's top doc

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    Default 'We need to learn to live with this virus, including with sports': Manitoba's top doc

    For some, it seems asinine to even consider a return to sports at the moment. For others, they’re feening for it.
    What makes the most sense differs from person to person, but what does a medical expert say about it? The Winnipeg Sun asked the man guiding the province’s battle against COVID-19 what he thinks in a one-on-one, wide-ranging interview on the subject of returning to sports.
    Is the risk worth taking, especially in contact sports?
    The answer, is yes — with caveats.
    “It’s a balance,” said Manitoba’s top doctor Dr. Brent Roussin during a phone conversation on Monday. “Depending on the jurisdiction and depending on what the numbers look like, I think that these type of activities, there’s certainly some promise on seeing them again.”
    Roussin has run a pretty air-tight ship since the first cases of COVID-19 presented in Manitoba in early March.
    Since then, the province’s test-positive ratio hovers under 1% and the province has just 292 cases of the virus.
    Places like Alberta have seen 24 times as many cases. Ontario, one of Canada’s hardest-hit jurisdictions, has seen 88 times more cases than their westerly neighbours.
    Manitoba has been top of the class when it comes to managing the spread of the virus and flattening the curve. Credit to the good doctor himself, the people of the province, and luck for that.
    But regardless of flat curves and low numbers, how can it make sense for sports that send bodily fluids flying all over the place to resume play in such unknown times.
    The passing of such fluids is a part of the game we rarely see. Usually, it only becomes public when a guy spits on or licks an opponent. But it happens often.
    From collisions between players to scrums in front of the net, sweat, saliva and sometimes even blood find their way onto others.
    And given the way COVID-19 travels from one person to another, contact sports like hockey or football can be the trading space COVID-19 needs to spread like wildfire if not kept in check.
    That sort of fluid transfer is part of the risk that, largely — and not without a fundamental change or changes to the game itself — can’t be fully mitigated.
    You can test and quarantine and bubble everyone and their mothers, too. But one slip up somewhere along the line and you have the beginnings of a cluster, if not a full-blown outbreak.
    It’s a risk that the NHL knows well. In the first few pages of their NHL phased return to sport protocol memo sent out on Monday that outlines their Phase two plans, there’s one line that sticks out:
    “This Protocol, while very comprehensive, cannot mitigate all risk. A range of clinical scenarios exist, from very mild to fatal outcome,” it reads.
    The majority of cases fall within the former. The latter often involves older age groups and particularly those with underlying medical conditions.
    But the risk still remains.

    And a question, too, persists: During a global pandemic, should sports leagues of any sort be positioning themselves for a return to work when so many unknowns exist with a virus that’s killed over 100,000 alone in the U.S., the world’s COVID-19 epicenter, and a country where 77% of the NHL’s 31 teams are based?

    “We do need to find a way to live with this virus,” Roussin said. “It’s not just going to disappear, so we’re just going to have to get on with our lives and deal with this virus.”

    Public safety, for Roussin, is paramount.
    It’s something he and other medical officials in other jurisdictions have ensured in one form: no fans in buildings for the foreseeable future. In Manitoba, that means none until at least September.
    Quebec, where the Montreal Canadiens are based, has similar protocols, as do other provinces that house NHL teams.
    Taking the fans out of the picture, the focus of safety shifts to the players, coaches, training staff, etc., and all of their families as well.
    “Extra caution is going to be needed on things like screening for symptoms, appropriate testing, hand hygiene, is going to be essential,” he said.
    Roussin said you will never see zero-risk. Everything that has to be done to ensure as much mitigation as possible of that risk has to be done in an informed manner, he said.
    NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly was quoted recently as saying if one or two players became infected with the virus, it wouldn’t necessarily throw an entire team into self-isolation.

    It’s possible, Roussin said, given the bubble format. But again, it really depends on the plan and the extreme precautions taken.
    Positive cases would require several precautions, including the quarantine of afflicted players, and thorough contact tracing to see who else may have come into contact to limit any further outbreak.
    “It would depend on the nature of the case and when the symptoms developed and just how much close contact there was,” Roussin said.
    Wearing proper PPE, things like full-face shields and other measures could limit that exposure.
    “But it’s hard to say unless you’re in those specifics,” he said. “What they’ll need to do is have these plans worked out right from the beginning.
    “What are people consenting to within that bubble should there be a case that develops?”

    Roussin doesn’t feel that planning a return to sport while a global pandemic rages on is mutually exclusive, either.
    In fact, if ensuring the health of the public can be maintained, he feels there could be tangible benefits of a return to sport.
    “This might be a good step. A lot of people have been spending these past several months living with this virus,” he said. “Getting back to some sort of normalcy, getting back to some entertainment, if we can do so in a safe manner, I do think there’s value in that.”

    Like mental health?
    “For sure, yeah,” he said. “I think there are mental health benefits for people seeing some remnants of normalcy. Certainly, there are economic benefits as well. You’ve probably heard me say, ‘There’s way more to health than just this virus.’

    “We need to find ways to start living with it.”

    While the NHL’s plan for Phase 2 of their return-to-play program was set forth by the NHL and the NHLPA on Monday, and with the return-to-play 24-team playoff format now official, the hard work has only begun when it comes to actually getting players back on the ice in a meaningful way.
    While ironing out who should and shouldn’t be allowed to compete for the Stanley Cup this season played out over several days of discussions, there are far more important things that will likely lead to more intense negotiations.
    Those are likely to include subjects such as stringent testing and sanitation protocols, hub city locations who will and won’t be allowed into the bubbles. There have already been voiced concerns by some players about the possibility of being away from their families for an extended period of time.
    There’s simply no reason for the players to accept anything other than the safest setting for them to play.

    And if there is an outbreak, what assurances will they have that it is contained, that proper contact tracing and testing is done, and care is provided and readily available? Will there be expanded insurance for players?
    While selecting an ideal format was met with only marginal opposition — just two teams of the NHL’s 31 opposed the plan — getting everyone on board in the name of safety may prove far more difficult.
    And one wonders, no matter what the NHL and the NHLPA decide, should any return-to-play format be voluntary for players, coaches and other team staffers alike?
    If that were an option, would it be fair to suspend or penalize a player in any way for choosing their health over, arguably, a needless return to play during a global pandemic?

    Commissioner Gary Bettman addressed this partially on Tuesday, suggesting that players with underlying health conditions, such as diabetes or asthma, would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. He did suggest that those who are able-bodied would be expected to play.

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    Twitter: @scottbilleck
    Last edited by Spud's cyclesguy; 2020-05-29 at 04:46.
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