3:08 PM: Lightning GM Julien BriseBois released the following statement through Twitter concerning the positive tests:
We have learned that three players and additional staff members have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. Those players have been self-isolated following CDC protocals and are asymptomatic other than a few cases of low-grade fever. Those who have been in contact with these individuals have been notified. The Lightning continue testing and are strictly following all NHL and government procedures as part of the league’s Phase 2 guidelines. Upon receiving positive tests yesterday, team training facilities were immediately closed with all players and staff being sent home. Those facilities will remain temporarily shut down until we can ensure a safe environment.
12:16 PM: While NHL facilities are open as part of the second phase of the NHL’s Return to Play plan, at least one will be shut down temporarily. TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports (all Twitter links) that three Lightning players and two staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. The expectation is that if all other players and staff test negative, the facility will re-open in the near future although Diana C. Nearhos of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Amalie Arena (where the team was skating) will be closed to non-essential staff until July 6th.
The identities of the players and staff were not identified. As McKenzie noted in an Insider Trading appearance on Thursday, that information is unlikely to be made available. The NHL (in conjunction with the NHLPA) appears to be shifting towards the approach of the NBA where an announcement will simply be made that someone tested positive without making any other type of identification. To that end, Joe Smith, Michael Russo, and Craig Custance of The Athletic report (subscription required) that there are other positive cases around the league at the moment that have not been announced.
It’s worth noting that at this stage in the process, the skates are voluntary and as such, there is no league-mandated quarantine in place. The expectation remains that if play resumes (likely in early August), there will be a full quarantine for both hub cities.
While one set of positive tests at this stage isn’t going to cause a significant setback, it certainly serves as a sobering reminder that there is still a long way to go towards a safe and healthy resumption of play as the pandemic continues on.