TAMPA — Three Lightning players and additional staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus, the organization said Friday.
The positive tests came up as part of the twice-weekly testing, a league requirement under the Phase 2 protocol. The organization is waiting on results of more tests and is performing contact tracing.
Amalie Arena has officially been closed, but some employees have worked from the building, asked to follow social-distancing guidelines and wear masks. The building is now closed to all non-essential staff until at least July 6, according to an email sent internally.
“Those players have been self-isolated following CDC protocols and are asymptomatic other than a few cases of low-grade fever,” Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois said in a statement. “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.”
The NHL said in a statement that 11 players have tested positive of the more than 200 to be tested since Phase 2 started. The Toronto Sun reported Friday that Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews had tested positive.
During the self-isolation phase, Ottawa had five players and a staff member test positive. Colorado had three, and Pittsburgh one. Boston announced one player tested positive during the initial Phase 2 testing, but it said that player then tested negative twice and began skating.
This could be a similar situation, where follow up testing could return negative for the Lightning players who originally tested positive. The organization needs to get further test results to determine how widespread this is, and thus how to proceed.
In its Phase 2 protocol, the NHL created two groups, “player access personnel” and “no player access personnel. Only certain members of the staff could come in contact with the players (one athletic trainer, equipment manager, strength and conditioning coach and dressing room attendant per group of six skaters, and the team physician).
The Lightning opened Phase 2, making ice available for groups of six players, on June 9. Participation is optional, but more than 12 players have joined the sessions over the last week. Players and staffers had temperature and symptom checks upon entering the arena each day. They are tested for the virus twice a week.
The league has announced a target date of July 10 for training camps to open, but the NHL and players association have yet to formally agree to resume the season. If they do come to an agreement, the league plans to host 12 teams from each conference in two hub cities for the playoffs.