How one sports practice in Ottawa led to 89 COVID-19 cases and forced hundreds to self-isolate

OTTAWA — One sports team practice in Ottawa this fall resulted in 89 cases of COVID-19, 445 high-risk contacts isolating and 10 sports teams forced to the sidelines.

An Ottawa Public Health update on a contact tracing case they first reported in November shows how an asymptomatic person attending practice, masks not being worn during practice and carpooling and mingling without respecting COVID-19 guidelines resulted in several outbreaks in Ottawa.

On Nov. 2, public health said one person with COVID-19 attended a sports practice indoors with 30 other people. As of Oct. 20, 60 people had tested positive with COVID-19 and seven outbreaks were declared.

On Friday, Ottawa Public Health said, “the sports cluster reported in November has resulted in 89 cases and 445 high risk contacts. When we say ‘be COVID-wise,’ this is why.”

Public Health says the sports practice resulted in 89 people testing positive, 445 high-risk contacts who needed to isolate, four outbreaks in schools, one outbreak in a daycare and 10 sports teams/practices impacted.

Ottawa Public Health explains how the sports practice turned into a COVID-19 super spreader event.

  • The index case was an asymptomatic person with COVID-19 who attended a team practice (they did not know they were infected)
  • Later, other asymptomatic people with COVID-19 and one symptomatic person with COVID-19 attended practice (none knew they were infected)
  • Masks were not consistently worn during practice
  • People carpooled to practices with members from outside their household
  • People mingled outside practices without proper mask use or physical distancing
  • Many interconnections: Coaches who coached multiple teams and practices included players from different teams

COVID-19 and Ottawa Sports

Ottawa Public Health says as a result of the cluster, it worked with stakeholders to reduce high-risk behaviours and developed educational materials and resources to limit COVID-19 transmission in sports. 

According to the Ottawa Public Health graphic, 45 of the 89 cases of COVID-19 were members of six sports teams.

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