CONCORD, N.H. (AP/CBS) — New Hampshire is “pausing” all hockey activities in indoor rinks for two weeks following positive COVID-19 tests for 158 people associated with the sport over the last two months, Gov. Chris Sununu and health officials said Thursday.
Dr. Ben Chan, state epidemiologist, said the cases are from 23 different hockey-related New Hampshire organizations and teams, “and there are additional connections with out-of-state ice hockey organizations.”
Chan said people who have acquired the virus through hockey have been associated with, and potentially exposed others, in at least 24 different K-12 schools throughout the state.
“This type of spread and exposure to other facilities and organizations within the community increases the risk of introduction and spread of COVID-19 in other settings outside of hockey,” Chan said.
Rinks will be cleaned and sanitized and guidance on the sport will be revised and more testing will be conducted. The suspension, which also affects ice skating in general, is in effect until Oct. 29.
College team activity is on hold, in addition to youth and amateur organization activities.
“We don’t know exactly where the pinpoints are here, whether it’s something on the ice or something in the locker rooms,” Sununu said.
“We’ve been working with this community for a couple of months; it’s not getting better,” he added.
For players like 13-year-old Vinny Aiello, the news came as a surprise when his practice Thursday night was abruptly canceled. “My first reaction was that I can’t believe it because it’s been going good for the past two months,” Vinny said.
Vinny had been so excited to be back on the ice after a summer without hockey and now – another waiting game. “So far we don’t really know much but we hope that in the future it stops soon,” he said.
Vinny’s mother, Lisa Aiello, felt like players and parents had been playing by all the safety rules.
“It’s a bummer for sure because they’re so excited they’ve been looking forward to doing their sport, the sports that they love,” Aiello said.
At TSR Sports in Salem, New Hampshire, shop co-owner Brendan Sheehy, who also coaches, says some people may have let their guard down over the past several weeks.
“Everyone was just crying they wanted their kid back on the ice and they would do everything,” Sheehy said. “They get back on the ice and how quickly we forget.”
For Vinny Aiello, he’s hoping after two weeks the puck will drop again. “If you want to be able to wear your jersey, you need to wear your mask,” Vinny said.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)