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NHL Shortens COVID Protocol to 5 Days…but With Conditions



pittsburgh penguins, tristan jarry

The Pittsburgh Penguins currently have seven players in COVID protocol and perhaps five are asymptomatic. On Wednesday afternoon, the NHL and NHLPA agreed to shorten the COVID protocols for asymptomatic players, one day after the CDC cut the quarantine time for asymptomatic Americans from 10 days to five. NHL players may be able to exit protocol but it won’t be as simple as counting days.

Among the Penguins in COVID protocol are Evan Rodrigues, Kasperi Kapanen, and Tristan Jarry.

While the CDC does not require tests for average Americans to exit protocol, but the NHL will have several requirements for players to be eligible to return.

According to CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky on Good Morning America on Wednesday, the reason the CDC isn’t requiring a test to shorten quarantines is the volume of people who will be quarantined, and PCR tests can be positive for 12 weeks.

“So we would have people in isolation for a very long time if we were relying on PCRs,” Walensky said.

However, the NHL is setting a much higher bar. Players will need to pass a PCR test or have two negative molecular point of care tests.

There’s also a little caveat about local health authorities having the final say. In the coming days and weeks, we’ll need to see how the differences between U.S. policy and the much stricter Canadian policies play out.

The Pittsburgh Penguins next game is scheduled for Sunday against the San Jose Sharks. The asymptomatic players, who tested positive on Dec. 26 could exit protocol and be ready for that game. The Penguins have not specified which players have symptoms.

The NHL COVID Protocol Press Release:

The National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) and the National Hockey League (NHL) announced today a modification to their COVID-19 Protocol. The modification will reduce the isolation period after a positive test from 10 days to five days for fully vaccinated Players who meet the required conditions. It also applies to fully vaccinated Hockey Operations staff, including coaches. The change was made in response to the new isolation guidelines for COVID-positive individuals issued on Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While the changes apply on a League-wide basis, all personnel will still have to comply with the applicable health and safety regulations in their jurisdictions, including the Federal and Provincial COVID health and safety mandates in Canada, which may be more restrictive than the Protocol.

Specifics of the changes to the Protocol after a positive test include:

  • Isolate for five days;
  • If the individual has a fever, continue to isolate until their fever resolves;
  • If the individual has no symptoms or their symptoms are resolving after five days, they can leave isolation and return to practices and games, provided the following conditions are met:
  • A lab-based PCR test that is negative, or a lab-based PCR test that has a CT value >30, or two negative molecular point of care tests collected >2 hours apart; and,
  • Medical clearance from the individual’s Club physician; and,
  • Such exit is permitted by their local health authority.
  • The individual shall continue to always wear a mask around others for five additional days, other than for practices and games.

All other aspects of the Protocol remain in place.

The NHL’s and NHLPA’s medical experts will re-evaluate these measures on or before Jan. 12.