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Penguins Getting Vaccinated; NHL Relaxes COVID Protocols

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On the same day the NHL and NHLPA announced they will relax COVID restrictions internally and externally for vaccinated teams effective at the end of each team’s regular season, the Pittsburgh Penguins will get their second vaccination shot.

According to Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan, the team will get their second poke Saturday night.

A couple of weeks after the NHL was criticized by Vegas Golden Knights goalie Robin Lehner for not relaxing the rules for vaccinated teams, the league made the big steps on Saturday. 

Among the notable changes back towards normalcy will be visitations and player interactions. Players will now be able to visit with each other in restaurants, public spaces, and on the road, players will be able to visit teammates’ hotel rooms. Masks will no longer be required in team meetings and players will be allowed to socially gather with other fully vaccinated individuals beyond the team traveling party.

Earlier this season, the Washington Capitals incurred penalties when Alex Ovechkin and several teammates gathered in a hotel room. Washington goalie Ilya Samsonov missed several weeks after testing positive.

Per the NHL statement, all changes have been agreed upon by the League’s and the NHLPA’s medical advisors after extensive consultation with medical experts in both the United States and Canada.

Players will be considered “fully vaccinated” 14 days after their second vaccination. For the Penguins, that will be May 23. And the league says a “vaccinated team” means that more than 85% of the players and traveling party have been vaccinated.

“I can tell you, we will be well over the 85% threshold,” Sullivan said.

Changes:

-Vaccinated players will no longer have to quarantine after being exposed to a positive individual or after commercial travel.

-Players no longer have to submit to PCR testing on off days.

-“POC” Point-of-Care testing will no longer be required on game days, unless the player did not have a PCR test the previous day.

As an alternative, teams may arrange same-day rapid local PCR results from a reputable local facility on game day.

NOTE: Any individual who returns an initial positive test for COVID-19 must enter the Positive Test Protocol, regardless of their vaccination status.

-Players and club staff will still be required to wear face masks at the arena in the pregame and public spaces. However, vaccinated teams will not have to wear masks in non-public areas at the arena or practice facility.

SOCIAL CHANGES for the Pittsburgh Penguins and vaccinated teams:

-Fully-Vaccinated Individuals may meet in groups of up to eight (8) at a social gathering. The group may include persons not in the Club Travelling Party, as long as all members of the gathering have been fully vaccinated.

Face coverings and social distancing are not required during these gatherings.

-Fully-Vaccinated Individuals are permitted in the hotel rooms of other Fully-Vaccinated Individuals.

-Dining/Restaurants: Fully-Vaccinated Individuals may eat and drink at restaurants that offer outdoor dining, either individually, or with other Fully-Vaccinated Individuals.

-Commuting – Two (2) or more Fully-Vaccinated Individuals may commute unmasked together.

-Team meetings and social gatherings of Fully Vaccinated Individuals can resume with no requirement for Fully-Vaccinated Individuals to socially distance or wear face coverings. Unvaccinated Individuals may participate in the same room (including in team lounges) but must socially distance and wear face coverings. 

-Fully-Vaccinated Individuals will be permitted to eat on flights and buses.

-Fully-Vaccinated Individuals may also gather indoors to dine, with no requirement for masks or social distancing (no limitation on group size), if a separate section of the restaurant is designated and secured from the rest of the restaurant’s patrons, ideally in a reserved room AND Fully-Vaccinated team members are served by masked restaurant employees.

And just for fun:

–FORE! Golf – Fully-Vaccinated Individuals may golf as a group. Such individuals shall not enter the clubhouse or other indoor facilities and should remain distanced from other patrons. Rented golf equipment should be accessed separately (and in a different area) from other patrons.

You wouldn’t want the Pittsburgh Penguins entering Nemacolin in the same entrance, would you?

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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