Specimens to be tested for COVID-19 are seen at a lab in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 26, 2020. The NHL says the laboratories hired to conduct daily COVID-19 tests on players in Edmonton and Toronto keep their supply chains separate from the public’s to ensure never the twain shall meet. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Specimens to be tested for COVID-19 are seen at a lab in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 26, 2020. The NHL says the laboratories hired to conduct daily COVID-19 tests on players in Edmonton and Toronto keep their supply chains separate from the public’s to ensure never the twain shall meet. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

NHL and its labs say COVID-19 testing doesn’t overlap with public’s

Roughly 1,500 samples are collected and analysed daily in each city

The NHL says the laboratories hired to conduct daily COVID-19 tests on players in Edmonton and Toronto keep their supply chains separate from the public’s to ensure never the twain shall meet.

Roughly 1,500 samples are collected and analysed daily in each city not only from players, team and NHL personnel, but from restaurant and hotel workers supporting the post-season tournament in each hub.

Prior to the NHL’s restart this summer, deputy commissioner Bill Daly estimated between 25,000 and 30,000 tests will be administered through the end of the Stanley Cup final.

Aware that even a perceived conflict with public testing could sour each city’s population on hosting a dozen NHL teams, the league and labs insist there isn’t one.

The chief executive officer of DynaLife in Edmonton says the lab sources chemicals and machinery from manufacturers that don’t supply Alberta Health Services.

“A very simple analogy would be public health has chosen to run a fleet of Chevrolets and Fords as their vehicles,” Jason Pincock told The Canadian Press.

“We looked at that and said, ‘OK, we want to make sure that they’re going to have all the parts and tools for all the Chevys and Fords that they need. So we’re going to buy the Hondas, and we’re going to run Hondas for the NHL.’ They’re all still cars.”

READ MORE: Canucks blank Wild 3-0, take series lead in penalty-filled NHL qualifying clash

The NHL’s chief medical officer indicated both labs gets their tests and technology from non-public suppliers.

“The way we’re doing the testing is using different staffing, different reagents and a different testing platform or machinery than is being used for the public testing,” Dr. Willem Meeuwisse said when the NHL announced details on resuming the 2019-20 season.

DynaLife set up a dedicated COVID-19 testing lab for the NHL in its downtown Edmonton location a few blocks south of Rogers Place and the two team hotels.

“It’s testing we weren’t doing before,” Pincock said. “We’ve never had a role in doing the public’s COVID testing.

“But we do a ton of routine health care testing for the public. That is our primary job.”

LifeLabs processes Toronto’s NHL tests at its main facility near Pearson Airport.

LifeLabs performs COVID-19 testing for both public and commercial clients, which now includes the NHL.

Senior vice-president Chris Carson states the company can handle both.

“We wouldn’t have taken it on if we couldn’t,” he said. “We have been very conscious of ensuring we are there for the support of the public health network. It is our first priority.

“We do track these capacities separately and we go to significant lengths to make sure we are supporting the public health network, and as the NHL has indicated, ensuring that we are not drawing against that to support our commercial relationships like the one we have with the NHL.”

Both Pincock and Carson say their labs hired additional staff — 70 in the case of Edmonton — to fulfil the NHL’s testing needs.

The league’s demand for tests will decrease as teams are eliminated from the post-season and depart hub cities. It should dwindle to zero in Toronto in September.

Alberta’s reward for high testing capacity and low rate of infection relative to other NHL markets was the league choosing the provincial capital to complete the playoffs.

The tentative start date for the conference finals is Sept. 8 followed by the Stanley Cup at Rogers Place.

The NHL said Monday no players or staff have tested positive for the virus since the 24 teams entered the secure zones in Toronto and Edmonton on July 26.

Alberta’s government has encouraged everyone, even the asymptomatic, to get tested. Public Health Ontario isn’t currently recommending routine tests for asymptomatic people.

Slowdowns or hiccups in public testing risk a scenario in which Albertans wonder why healthy young men are tested at a faster rate than them.

“Just the mere optics of tests in the public system taking longer than tests for NHL players can be problematic,” said Dr. Lorian Hardcastle, an associate law professor at the University of Calgary who specializes in health law and policy.

An NHL team receiving preferential or additional servicing from the health-care system has been a flashpoint in Alberta before.

Calgary Flames players and their families receiving H1N1 flu vaccines in 2009 at a private clinic, the day before the province declared a shortage, resulting in an inquiry and the firing of a nurse and her supervisor.

Alberta has the capacity to perform 16,000 daily tests and the highest single-day demand so far was 11,501 on July 31, Alberta Health communications assistant director Tom McMillan told The Canadian Press in an email.

“Alberta has had the most open testing approach in Canada and not yet approached our maximum capacity on any given day,” he wrote.

“More important than simple capacity is ensuring that testing is available when it’s needed for those who need it most.”

— With files from The Associated Press

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusNHL

Just Posted

2021 Williams Lake Dry Grad Reverse Parade Saturday, June 12, 2021. (Angie Mindus photos - Williams Lake Tribune)
PHOTOS: Graduates line Western Avenue for 2021 Williams Lake Dry Grad Reverse Parade

Community members waited in line in their vehicles to congratulate grads

Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)
RANCH MUSINGS: Placing hope for the future in our children and their children

I am trying to be sure to include that focus as part of an evolving work/life balance

Graduate Belle Riding is congratulated by Lake City Secondary School learning support teacher Gail Gardner as she makes her way across the stage to receive her diploma. (Greg Sabatino photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
2021 Lake City Secondary School grads take centre stage at Williams Lake campus ceremonies

Ceremonies took place over two days, with COVID-19 restrictions in place for second year in a row

BGC Williams Lake Sprockids participants get ready to hit the trails on Fox Mountain May 27 in Williams Lake. (Greg Sabatino photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Sprockids mountain biking program at BGC Williams Lake provides positive, outdoor outlet for youth

Sprockids aims to give youth the opportunity to saddle up on mountain bikes and hit the trails

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read