21 players, 4 staff on Canucks have now tested positive for COVID-19, team says

The Vancouver Canucks say 21 players and four staff members have now tested positive for COVID-19, and that the source infection was a variant.

One additional player is considered a close contact, the team said in a statement Wednesday.

It's unclear which COVID-19 variant is responsible for the infections, but the Canucks said genome sequencing is being performed by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

And in a statement, the team revealed the cluster was traced back to a single person, though it wasn’t immediately clear if that individual is a member of the Canucks' organization or a close contact.

"An ongoing investigation by Vancouver Coastal Health and club contact tracing staff attributes the source infection to a single individual obtained in a community setting, which has since been identified by public health as a public exposure location," the statement reads. "Rapid spread of infection throughout the team indicates a link between contacts and the primary case."

It’s not clear if the initial exposure occurred in a restaurant.

The NHL’s COVID-19 protocol states that participants should “stay at home to the greatest extent possible and not engage in unnecessary interactions with non-family members.”

That includes avoiding restaurants in a participant's “home market.”

Dr. Jim Bovard, the team physician for the Canucks, also released a statement Wednesday stressing that the health and safety of players, staff members and the community remains the top priority.

“The Canucks are grateful for the continued support of local public health officials, the NHL and NHLPA and encourage everyone to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by following health orders,” the statement reads.

“This is a stark reminder of how quickly the virus can spread and its serious impact, even among healthy, young athletes," Bovard said.

When asked about the Canucks cluster on Wednesday, the top doctor for the regional health authority said it was indicative of the clusters occurring among young people in all sorts of workplaces and social settings.

“(There is) nothing unusual about what’s happening with the Canucks,” said Dr. Patricia Daly, Vancouver Coast Health’s chief medical officer, said. “It is not something unexpected."

The Canucks deferred questions about a return to play to the NHL.

Emails to the NHL, which has a clock on its Canucks page counting down to a game Thursday night between the Canucks and Flames in Calgary, were not returned by deadline.