NHL Shortens COVID Isolation Period to 5 Days with Negative Test After CDC Guidelines

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVDecember 29, 2021

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 09: General view of the NHL logo on game pants during a NHL game between Ottawa Senators and Boston Bruins on November 9, 2021, at TD Garden in Boston, MA. (Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NHL shortened the isolation period following a positive COVID-19 test to five days.

In a memo shared by Daily Faceoff's Frank Seravalli on Wednesday, the league said players can stop isolating after five days with a negative test if they're asymptomatic:

Frank Seravalli @frank_seravalli

NEWS: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NHL?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NHL</a> has officially shortened isolation period to 5 days with a negative test - IF allowed by local health authorities.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NHL?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NHL</a> now in line with CDC guidelines, according to memo distributed to teams today which was obtained by <a href="https://twitter.com/DailyFaceoff?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@DailyFaceoff</a>.<br><br>Here’s the updated protocol ⬇️ <a href="https://t.co/XLp9Ghq0va">pic.twitter.com/XLp9Ghq0va</a>

This follows a recent update by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggesting that people who test positive for COVID-19 only need to isolate for five days, half the length of the previous recommendation:

"The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after. Therefore, people who test positive should isolate for 5 days and, if asymptomatic at that time, they may leave isolation if they can continue to mask for 5 days to minimize the risk of infecting others."

Major sports leagues have wasted little time amending their protocols to align with the CDC's recommendation.

The NFL and NFL Players Association agreed to a new five-day isolation period that applies to vaccinated and unvaccinated players. Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported the NBA is also loosening its isolation requirements.

ESPN's Emily Kaplan wrote the NHL's new rules still need to be approved by local health authorities in order to go into effect for individual teams. Patrick Johnston of the Vancouver Sun noted the Vancouver Canucks will continue to adhere to instructions from British Columbia officials, which require a seven-day isolation for vaccinated, symptomatic players.

Elliotte Friedman @FriedgeHNIC

Per new CDC guidelines, NHL/NHLPA have agreed to possibility of vaccinated individuals leaving isolation five days after a positive COVID test if they have no symptoms or “symptoms are resolving.” Key phrase: “providing such exit is permitted by your local health authority”…

Elliotte Friedman @FriedgeHNIC

Teams/players seem very happy with this news and we will see how local authorities react. Of course, most eyes in Canada/Northern California — which have tougher restrictions. We will see where things go

With the omicron variant leading to a surge in new COVID-19 cases, the NHL has seen the 2021-22 season upended.

The league extended its holiday pause and shut down all operations from Dec. 22-25. Action ultimately resumed Tuesday, and the brief break did little to ease the situation. The NHL announced the postponement of 10 more games, bringing the season-long total to 80. So far, only one of those 80 games has been completed.

Per Kaplan, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly remains optimistic all 30 teams can fulfill a full 82-game schedule by the end of April.