One player infected 14 others during recreational hockey game in Tampa Bay area, report shows

A recreational hockey game played at a Tampa Bay area rink is to blame for a COVID-19 outbreak. It happened back in June, but was detailed in a report released this week by the CDC.

Ice hockey is fast-paced, highly physical, with lots of close contact -- the perfect environment for spreading the coronavirus hotspot.

“You’re likely to spread the virus just by the heavy breathing that you’re doing just by exerting yourself,” explained University of South Florida professor of public health, Dr. Marissa Levine. “All of that being indoors then made that more likely as a potential for a superspreader event.”

The term super-spreader means when one contagious person infects many others.

According to the report from the CDC, that is exactly what happened at a Tampa Bay area hockey game on a Tuesday night back in June.

hockey super spreader covid

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“We don’t really know who the super-spreaders are, this person who was infected was a super-spreader but they didn’t really feel sick until the next day,” USF Health Dr. Michael Teng said.

Health officials believe that one man was the source, already contagious but not showing symptoms. Within five days of the match-up, eight of his teammates, five players on the other team, and one rink employee all got sick.

A situation that could have contributed to widespread community transmission of COVID-19.

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“They don’t actually say that it spread beyond that, so what that means is they went in there did contact tracing very quickly and were able to determine who was positive,” said Teng.

The report is co-authored by Department of Health Epidemiologists in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties, so it is unclear where the outbreak occurred.

Local medical experts say the main takeaway should be how easily this virus spreads when people are in close proximity.

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“I think as we learn more we realize that bottom line is you have to take precautions in most settings that you’re in when there are other people around,” Levine said.

Health officials say we are entering a very critical time with flu season starting and new coronavirus infections trending up in the state, so it is more important than ever to stay at least six feet from others, wear face coverings, and wash your hands.