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BC Provincial Health Officer blames Kingston rugby tournament for outbreaks at several universities

Update (Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021 at 9:55 a.m.)

Further to the response provided by Queen’s University regarding the assertion made by Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer for British Columbia, that the 2021 Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship (hosted in Kingston by Queen’s University from November 24 to 28, 2021) led to several COVID-19 outbreaks across Canada, the University has issued the following statement:

“KFL&A Public Health is responsible for all COVID-19 contact tracing with[in] KFL&A and the university fully supports its ongoing efforts to limit any spread of cases within the Queen’s community.

In November, Queen’s hosted both a University Sports Women’s Rugby Championship (November 10-14), and a Rugby Canada – Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship (November 24-28). KFL&A Public Health has not declared an outbreak related to either national championship.

The university employed very stringent COVID-19 protocols and safety measures while the athletes and supporting staff were on campus. Students and staff had to meet all vaccination requirements and were rapid tested upon arrival and twice more during the tournaments. Everyone was required to mask while not on the field, physically distance from fans, teams used separate exits/entrance, and gatherings on the field were not permitted.”

Update (Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021 at 2:20 p.m.)

In response for request for comment on the assertion by Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer for British Columbia, that the 2021 Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship (hosted in Kingston by Queen’s University from November 24 to 28, 2021) led to several COVID-19 outbreaks across Canada — including those involving the Omicron variant — Queen’s University has provided the following statement (embedded links also supplied by Queen’s):

“The health and safety of our community is our foremost concern, and we have seen rising cases of COVID-19 within our student population. KFL&A Public Health does all contact tracing and has initiated tests with several suspected cases to confirm if any are the Omicron variant that has been identified in the KFL&A region.

The university fully supports public health’s efforts to limit any spread of cases that are identified and recently introduced enhanced precautions to our already rigorous protocols that are in place to keep our community safe.

On December 8, Queen’s confirmed a COVID-19 outbreak impacted its varsity sports community, and suspended all varsity training until further notice. That outbreak was not directly related to any sports competitions or on-campus facilities.

On December 10, the University confirmed an outbreak in the wider student community and implemented enhanced health and safety precautions and recommended testing for students. On December 13, the University announced it was discontinuing in-person exams. More information is available in the updates section of our Safe Return website. All positive COVID-19 cases at Queen’s are posted on the university’s case tracker.”

Queen’s did not respond to a request for the total number of active cases of COVID-19 within the University community by time of publication. Queen’s University solely lists the number of cases reported within its community each week on its COVID-19 case tracker, and not which of those cases remain active.

Original article

In a press conference on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021, Dr. Bonnie Henry, the Provincial Health Officer for British Columbia, blamed a rugby tournament held at Queen’s University in Kingston for several COVID-19 outbreaks across the country.

Teams from Kingston’s Queen’s University and Royal Military College, as well as teams from the University of BC, University of Victoria, University of Guelph, University of Calgary, Concordia University, and Dalhousie University participated in the men’s rugby tournament, the 2021 Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship.

The tournament, which took place from Nov. 24 to Nov. 28, included a post-tournament party attended by several of the participating teams. According to Dr. Henry, the cases associated with the tournament have been identified as being the Omicron variant.

“We know that there was some transmission from the varsity rugby team which participated in a rugby game, and I don’t have all of the details of how many teams were there, but it has led to outbreaks at several other universities across the country as well. And so some of the more recent cases are related to varsity rugby players, that have tested positive for Omicron, we have a number of more tests in the hopper for whole genome sequencing, so I expect more of them,” Dr. Henry said.

Earlier this month, Queen’s University acknowledged an outbreak among varsity sports teams but stated, at the time, that the outbreak was not believed to be associated with any particular event. The university recorded 282 new cases of COVID-19 last week.

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