TORONTO — Ontario's top doctor doesn't see COVID-19 testing capacity being an issue in the province once the NHL hunkers down in Toronto for its restart.
Dr. David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, expressed confidence in the NHL plan for testing in the province.
"They can go through private sources to get it done," Williams said. "We just want to make sure that it is of quality and can be covered that way so that if there were any concerns, Toronto Public Health or the province can be informed of any issues.
"We're looking at the volume of the testing, how much per day, with the players being tested. More at the beginning, I guess. As teams get eliminated at their playoff venue, they'd have less and less testing ... Right now we feel we can handle that capacity but we will continue to monitor that and to be in discussion and dialogue with the NHL with Toronto Public Health throughout this process."
Several pro sports leagues in the harder-hit United States have been under the microscope for their testing procedures as cases surge in many states.
Players and coaches in the NHL's secure zones in Toronto and Edmonton will be tested daily once they arrive later this month. Some have estimated there will be upwards of 2,000 tests per day.
"So with respect to testing, part of why we're going to where we're going and having the hubs in places where there's less COVID-19, it gives us better access to testing, which we're getting from commercial sources and which we're paying for, and we wanted to make sure that we're not doing anything that takes away from the medical needs of a community, and we're comfortable that that's the case," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said on a conference call on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said the most important aspect for the province is making sure the public is secure during NHL play.
"We haven't had discussions yet around the granularity of disclosing data with respect to NHL play," she said.
"And I think that the most important thing with respect to how we're monitoring that is even before there are any cases, making sure that all of the measures that are being taken to ensure that spread is minimized to protect the players, to protect the public, that we are working very closely with the teams and with the NHL to ensure that those measures are being followed. So that in some ways is the most important metric: to make sure that public protection is happening."
The NHL has said it will not identify the players or teams after positive tests.
Games are slated to start Aug. 1 in both cities.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 13, 2020.
—With files from Lauren Krugel in Calgary and Michelle McQuigge in Toronto.