More than 90 people reported being affected by the norovirus outbreak at the Rick Lapointe Memorial hockey tournament in Greater Victoria.
The Bantam hockey showcase saw teams of players between the ages of 13 and 15 come from across B.C. to compete at arenas on the South Island from Dec. 5 to 8. On Friday evening, players began to show symptoms of norovirus and many teams forfeited over the weekend as more players became ill.
Thank you to organizers, UVIC facilities peeps and Island Health for a swift and appropriate response to a viral illness outbreak during the Rick Lapointe Tournament. Wishing all althetes a safe and happy holiday. ❤️🏒
— VRCMHA (@VRChockey) December 9, 2019
By Tuesday afternoon four of the sixteen teams that attended had shared the number of cases of their team with other coaches, noted Matt Plotnikoff, manager for the North Vancouver Minor Hockey Association’s A2 team. On the four teams, more than 90 athletes and family members were affected – more than 30 from Plotnikoff’s A2 team alone. He said the Nanaimo and Hollyburn teams were also hit hard.
Wendy Bach’s son, a Hollyburn Huskies player, was one of the first to fall ill on Friday. She was surprised how quickly the virus spread through the teams.
The host team, the Victoria Racquet Club, dropped out on Friday evening and tournament organizers sent out a note on Saturday morning advising sick athletes to stay away from the arena, Bach said. Those still playing were told to use the hand sanitizer.
As other players on her son’s team began showing symptoms on Saturday morning, the coach decided to pull out of the tournament and parents supported the decision. The Huskies went home to West Vancouver on the ferry and Bach noted that while she and her son stayed in the car to avoid transmitting the virus as recommended by Island Health, other players were spotted running around the ferry.
Bach wasn’t surprised when she began showing symptoms on Sunday morning and noted that other parents fell ill as the weekend progressed – “it was a domino effect,” she said. Bach noted that one spectator was taken to hospital over the weekend and that a player with diabetes also became ill during the tournament.
Bach felt Island Health didn’t communicate enough. She said Island Health sent teams a “generic note” explaining that all precautions were taken and that an investigation is underway to find the source of the outbreak, but she felt more should have been done.
The remaining games should have been canceled and communication should have been better, Bach said. She felt that not pausing games to investigate was irresponsible.
Plotnikoff agreed, noting that while the tournament organizers “did the best they could,” Island Health didn’t communicate with the individual teams. When he reached out to Island Health, a representative said that the test results hadn’t come back to confirm the outbreak was in fact norovirus and that an investigation was still underway.
On Tuesday, an Island Health spokesperson explained that that the exact number of people affected was not reported to Island Health and that no one was available for an interview regarding the outbreak.