Brett Fraser, the president of the Edmonton Stingers, gets tested for COVID-19 on Monday. (Edmonton Stingers Twitter photo)

Professional basketball in Canada begins return to action with COVID-19 testing

Abbotsford’s Fraser Valley Bandits, six other CEBL teams arrive in Ontario for Summer Series

All seven Canadian Elite Basketball League teams, including Abbotsford’s Fraser Valley Bandits, have descended onto St. Catharines, Ont. this week to begin preparation for the Summer Series event, which runs from July 25 to Aug. 9.

It’s the first semblance of pro sports in Canada and in the COVID-19 era that means safety, precautions and testing.

Bandits management told The News they are bringing a total of 15 people to the tournament, which includes players, coaches and other staff. They stated that ordinarily that number is usually over 20, but medical support is being sourced from the St. Catharines region so the team is not bringing a doctor, athletic therapist or a physiotherapist.

It’s a similar case for the other six teams in the league, as Bandits management said it is a very exclusive list of essential people that will be arriving and participating in the tournament.

Bandits vice president Dylan Kular said the tournament came to be after much consultation with Ontario health officials.

“All of our plans have been subject to the measures put in place by provincial, federal, and local public health and government officials,” he said. “Without their blessing we cannot move forward. We have been fully compliant with every requirement and will continue to be. Public health officials have worked closely with us to put in place exceptionally detailed medical protocols designed to keep our players, coaches, staff, local public and tournament officials safe.”

Every player and staff member at the tournament was tested for COVID-19 on Monday (July 13) after arriving. The test involves inserting a six-inch long swab into the cavity between your nose and mouth for approximately 15 seconds and rotating it several times. The swab is then inserted into a container and sent to a lab for testing. Niagara health authorities will then analyze the findings.

Anyone being tested will remain self-isolated until they receive word that they have tested negative and after receiving a negative test the individual will be allowed to train or work in the approved areas. A positive test will force the person to immediately adhere to the rules and supervision of local health authorities.

All players and staff who had arrived from outside of Canada for the tournament have been quarantined for two weeks as per the federal policy.

Kular said that testing and screening will be ongoing throughout the tournament.

“There will be daily screening and frequent testing of all individuals participating in the Summer Series,” he said. “There will be exhaustive cleaning measures at all times and in all areas of the arena, training facility and hotel. Also, each team will have someone designated to monitor their social distancing practices to make sure they conform to the six-foot rule. People will wear masks unless they are involved in the actual game or practice session. If an individual shows symptoms of COVID then they are given to the Niagara region health authorities for testing and contact tracing. Prior to round robin games commencing there will be another test administered.”

Players who test positive during the tournament will be immediately removed and provided a course of action by local medical officials. The CEBL has also created three safe zones: the Meridian Centre (where games are being played), a local training facility and a nearby hotel that is not open to the public during the tournament. The names of the hotel and the training facility will not be made public by the league.

“There will be very tight restrictions around who can enter the parameters of where we will live and work for the four weeks,” Kular said.

The names of those testing positive will not be made public, but the league may reveal the amount of players or staff that tested positive.

The Bandits open the Summer Series on July 26 against the Edmonton Stingers. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m.

RELATED: Fraser Valley Bandits, CEBL bringing pro sports back later this month

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