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An old-timers hockey team, which travelled by bus to a tournament in Alberta from the B.C. Interior and then returned with several players infected with COVID-19, which spread widely, has earned a rare rebuke from British Columbia’s Public Health Officer.

“This is another cautionary tale that right now you cannot take these types of licence from the restrictions we have put in place for all of our spaces. So it cannot happen,” Bonnie Henry said in a briefing on Wednesday.

Dr. Henry said she would not give details about the team, noting her colleagues from around B.C. have told her that the conduct was not unique and there have been “several instances” like this.

“I will say it was an adult, old-timers hockey team that felt it was important to continue their travel and games across the border,” she said.

She said a “number” of the team came back, and spread the virus to family members and in their workplaces and communities.

“I can tell you it was several dozen families that were affected, several businesses, long-term care that was affected.”

Dr. Henry has called for British Columbians to avoid unnecessary travel, and also said indoor sports are now risky.

Last month, Dr. Henry announced restrictions on sport that are effective until Dec. 7, ruling out travel for teams outside their community. Those orders were delivered verbally. Dr. Henry has since held discussions with sports authorities leading to written orders providing more details.

B.C. is grappling with high COVID-19 case counts, with varied public-health orders limiting social interaction to try to bend the curve of infection.

On Wednesday, Dr. Henry reported 834 new cases of COVID-19 in the province. There are 8,941 active cases of COVID-19 in B.C., with 12 additional deaths for a total of 469 COVID-linked fatalities. In total, 337 people are in hospital, with 79 in critical-care and intensive-care units.

As Dr. Henry talked about the hockey incident, she noted, “We are recognizing that these are, indeed, higher-risk activities.”

She acknowledged the hockey games are an important part of socialization, but added that right now, such conduct is risky and “cannot happen.”

She made passing reference to an example from mid-November, in which a fitness centre in Surrey was linked to 42 cases of COVID-19 – workers and customers – when people awaiting a virus test result went to the club. The situation forced the closing of the fitness centre and prompted efforts at contact tracing by the Fraser Health Authority.

Of the new hockey case, Dr. Henry said, “Nobody intended to do this, and I know that people feel like, `Oh. It will be okay,’ that `We have not had any virus here, we will be fine.’”

People making exceptions leads to, what Dr. Henry called, a “crack” in the wall of efforts to counter the spread of the virus. “We see that this virus can exploit that very easily at this time of year,” she said.

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