By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – Hockey moms rebelled against proposed revised guidelines for hockey and skating rink use on Thursday at the Governor’s Economic Reopening Committee meeting.
The parents and organizers claim that an added provision was unfair that would include that every athlete must be tested for COVID-19 before play resumes and they have a negative result available upon request.
Calling it a “dangerous precedent” that could limit out-of-state play, they complained to the committee that this would be onerous and unfair to single out this sport. Right now, there are no games.
Gov. Chris Sununu last Thursday closed all ice arenas for two weeks to allow for deep cleaning, testing, and revision of the current guidelines. They will stay closed until 11:59 p.m. Oct. 29 if not longer if Sununu decides to continue the “pause.”
The closure came after state health officials, using contact tracing data, found there have been 184 New Hampshire residents diagnosed with COVID-19 directly related to hockey.
This deadly and highly contagious respiratory virus has killed 469 residents in New Hampshire. The illnesses related to hockey have come from 25 different organizations, said Patricia Tilley, deputy director of the of state Division of Public Health.
“We know this is not a New Hampshire issue alone,” Tilley said, adding other states are also struggling with outbreaks related to hockey.
Testing is even more widely available now than it ever has been, she said. The guidelines require a baseline test for everyone.
She said it was used successfully this summer with youth summer camps and is also used in other settings including daycare.
“We understand this is a challenge but believe this is necessary so we can all get back on the ice safely,” she said.
A copy of the proposed revised guidance for ice rinks is here https://www.nheconomy.com/getmedia/86d3b996-d5d4-44d8-ae2b-dd18116cba11/Indoor-Ice-Arena-Draft-Guidance-for-Task-Force-Review-10-21-20.pdf
Sununu has not weighed in yet on the new recommendations.
Lisa Horn, a Manchester Flames parent, and director of scheduling for the club said she was concerned about the requirement for testing.
“We have done our part,” Horn said, to keep people safe from the virus. “It puts us in a difficult position,” noting that they would be responsible for private health data for over 800 people who would need that assessment.
“You are not requiring it for any other sport,” she said.
D.J. Bettencourt, the governor’s policy director, said he would be remiss if not commending the Flames for the provisions they have taken for preventing the spread of the virus.
A physical or a doctor’s note, Tilley said, that information is handled by camps and daycare centers.
A hockey mother and pediatrician who was speaking on her own behalf said testing only shows a single point in time and may provide a false sense of security. The state should close the bars and restaurants first and focus on the hockey academies which don’t receive the same level of supervision as youth league sports, she said.
Victor Druin of Wolfeboro said he felt required testing is a violation of human rights. Todd Spencer of the New England Wildcats said most of the new proposed guidance is “doable and wise. My issue is the testing for all players.”
The athletes play teams in other states that do not require this. So hosting out-of-state games might not work and “we won’t have anyone to play.”
Callers into the virtual meeting also noted the emotional toll this is taking on youths who are in some cases not able to go to school because of the virus.