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Curling

2 positive COVID-19 cases found within same curling team ahead of women's worlds

A pair of positive COVID-19 cases have been identified ahead of the upcoming world women's curling championship, the seventh and final competition to be held in a so-called bubble setting at the Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary.

All recent arrivals to Calgary isolated in pre-competition quarantine hotel

A pair of positive coronavirus cases have been identified in Calgary ahead of the world women’s curling championship at Markin MacPhail Centre. The 10-day event begins Friday. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

A pair of positive COVID-19 cases have been identified ahead of the upcoming world women's curling championship, the seventh and final competition to be held in a so-called bubble setting at the Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary.

The World Curling Federation said the initial positive result was discovered in day-zero testing during a pre-competition quarantine period last Friday. The second positive case was identified within the same team after enhanced testing protocols on Sunday.

"The protocols that were developed for this championship, with guidance from Alberta Health, worked exactly as designed," said Dr. Bob McCormack, the event medical director.

"The screening identified individuals who have tested positive prior to their entry into the competition bubble, and I am confident of our ability to control the situation to ensure the safety of everyone participating in the world championship as well as the local community."

The WCF said all other tests since teams arrived in Calgary have returned negative results. The WCF, Curling Canada and Alberta Health are now following a COVID-19 response plan.

There was no immediate word on which team was affected. The 10-day competition is scheduled to begin Friday.

Kerri Einarson's Manitoba-based team will represent Canada. The 14-team world championship serves as the main Olympic qualifier for the 2022 Beijing Games.

Einarson is coming off a victory in Sunday's final at the Princess Auto Players' Championship, one of two Grand Slam events that were held in the bubble this month. Teams that played in the Grand Slams are staying in a different hotel than teams that recently arrived for the world championship.

Enhanced testing

All recent arrivals to Calgary were isolated in a pre-competition quarantine hotel, the WCF said Monday in a news release. They will remain there while protocols outlined in the response plan are followed.

Existing protocols developed with the public health authority will now feature enhanced testing to determine the safe return to sport for the existing members of the impacted team, the WCF said.

Medical officials, in consultation with Alberta Health, will make the final decision on the team's participation before the start of round-robin play.

Joining Canada in the field are teams from China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States.

Canada is scheduled to open against Sweden's Anna Hasselborg on Friday night.

Alberta Health and the Public Health Agency of Canada approved Curling Canada's plan to host events in a controlled environment without spectators.

The first three competitions went off largely without a hitch, but there was a COVID-19 scare at the world men's curling championship earlier this month. Four positive tests were later deemed to be "false positives" and the playoffs resumed after a one-day delay.

There were no COVID-19 issues during the Grand Slams, which are owned and operated by Sportsnet.

'Managed quarantine protocol'

For its bubble plan, Curling Canada adopted many elements from Hockey Canada's operation of the world junior men's hockey championship in Edmonton from Dec. 25 to Jan. 5.

International teams didn't arrive in Canada by charter flights as the hockey players did, but flew commercially. A negative test taken less than 72 hours before travelling to Calgary was required.

Upon arrival, athletes and team personnel must begin a week-long "managed quarantine protocol" with four separate tests taken during that span before curlers can be cleared to compete.

Teams are confined to the arena and their hotel across the Trans-Canada Highway, and drive themselves back and forth. Masks are mandatory outside hotel rooms and off the field of play.

Einarson and teammates Val Sweeting, Shannon Birchard and Briane Meilleur were scheduled to hold a pre-competition conference call Monday afternoon. That availability was postponed until Tuesday.

In February, the team won the first event in the bubble — the Canadian women's curling championship — for the second year in a row.

Einarson would have represented Canada at last year's world championship, but the event was cancelled due to the pandemic.

The 2021 world women's playdowns were a late addition to the curling bubble calendar. The event was originally scheduled for late March in Schaffhausen, Switzerland.

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