Is hockey to blame for the rise in COVID-19 cases?

BOSTON — Massachusetts now has 63 communities in its high-risk category including 23 cities and towns whose infection rates increased since last week.

While the rise in cases along the South Shore is likely not due to the hockey outbreaks, Rockland health officials say it’s a factor and now dozens of hockey leagues and thousands of players are growing concerned.

“A few of the teams around me have gotten a few cases like some of the kids and coaches,” said hockey player Owen Benard.

Some parents and players tell Boston 25 the teams have done a good job keeping them informed but were not that surprised hearing about an increase in COVID-19 cases.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” said player Steve Levin. “We wear our masks here but no telling what everyone does.”

“I think what happens is that a lot of people are being relaxed and not taking it as seriously as they did back in March,” said Delshaune Flipp, Rockland’s health agent. “Boston Terriers had a practice, they watched film without masks.”

Flipp says since that mask-less film session a few weeks ago, a coach and a couple of players tested positive, but she doesn’t know how many total cases came from that.

“It was very hard with contact tracing because we didn’t get the rosters until you know mid-week last week,” said Flipp. “So it was a lot of scrambling to be able to get all the communities that were infected. I would say there was seven plus communities that were affected by this.”

Hanover’s Superintendent of Schools Matthew Ferron confirmed one of their students tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend, and 36 students who are all hockey players with possible close contact to this person are presently in quarantine as a precaution.

“As days go by, it is possible that there may be other positive tests within this cohort, perhaps not,” said Ferron.

He also says, there are many other cases related to youth club hockey on the south shore.

“I’ve been trying to stay away from some of the kids with cases going on,” said Benard. “I stayed back a few practices just so the cases would maybe go down. We try to stay out of locker rooms and we try and stay in the rink as short as possible by getting ready in the car.”

A couple of the club owners and organizers of the different leagues told us off camera they keep regulations tight.

“There are signs everywhere asking kids to wear masks, the kids even must wear them on the ice, coaches must wear them on the bench, there’s only one parent per player, and players don’t dress inside, they come dressed and do so 15 mins before each game,” said one anonymous owner. “The kids are all terrified about potentially going back to phase 2. They tell me a lot of the kids have even been crying about wanting to keep playing. We ask people to not just blame hockey leagues because any time a kid anywhere tests positive, all the kids around them will automatically get tested and with more tests, the numbers will automatically go up.”

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