Story at a glance
- An outbreak of COVID-19 in Florida among ice hockey players has led public health experts to warn about superspreader events.
- Mass gatherings in enclosed spaces are highly discouraged.
A COVID-19 outbreak that occurred during an ice hockey game in Florida has spurred the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to warn against attending these “superspreader” events, underscoring how COVID-19 transmits easily in crowded areas with circulated air.
Superspreader events are defined by the CDC as an instance where one infectious individual infects many others in the same proximity, which can lead to a mass outbreak that propagates further transmission.
In June, the Florida Department of Health received reports that a player on one ice hockey team exhibited coronavirus symptoms after participating in an evening game.
The player tested positive for the virus two days later. Contact tracing and investigative efforts soon revealed that eight of the 10 players on this team became symptomatic, and five out of 11 players from the opposing team began displaying symptoms soon after as well. One rink staff member was also symptomatic of a COVID-19 infection.
Excluding the initial patient first infected with the virus, 13 of the 21 ice hockey players, or 62 percent of both teams, tested positive for COVID-19.
Asymptomatic players were not tested.
Further investigation revealed the players did not have any other common exposures prior to this match, and mitigation measures like cloth face masks were not used during the game or in locker rooms.
CDC researchers note that the sport, which includes heavy respiration and frequent physical contact, was the likely vehicle for the outbreak. Despite a smaller number of players and few spectators, the report notes that venues like ice rinks — closed spaces where people are in close contact — are hotbeds for virus transmission.
“The indoor space and close contact between players during a hockey game increase infection risk for players and create potential for a superspreader event, especially with ongoing community COVID-19 transmission,” the report read.
As the weather gets colder outside, public health experts are concerned more indoor activities with many people in close proximity will lead to even more viral spread. CDC officials advise people wear face masks when outside of their homes, remain 6 feet apart and frequently wash their hands.