Edmonton Elks’ president Chris Presson indicated on Friday that the team has yet to discuss the possibility of parting ways with their players who have refused vaccination.
“I don’t know if that’s up for debate on a Zoom call. I think that’s for internal discussion only,” said Presson via videoconference. “I will have that discussion if we get to that point internally.”
The Elks revealed on Friday that 63 of their 79 tier-one personnel members (79.7 percent) are fully-vaccinated, while three are partially vaccinated (3.8 percent). This means that 13 are unvaccinated (16.5 percent), meaning the team is still short of the key 85 percent threshold.
The CFL introduced a new policy at the start of August that penalizes teams with a substandard vaccination rate. In the event that a game is cancelled due to an outbreak, any team that is fewer than 85 percent vaccinated will not be paid.
The Elks flew back from Vancouver and arrived in Edmonton at 3:00 a.m. MT on Friday, Aug 20. All tier-one staff members (ie. players and coaches) were tested for COVID-19 at the team’s facility the following day, at which point it was determined that five players had the virus.
Four additional players tested positive on Sunday, two more tested positive on Monday, one more tested positive on Tuesday, and two more tested positive on Wednesday. No additional cases were detected on Thursday, leaving Edmonton’s current outbreak at 14 cases of COVID-19.
“The guys are a bit worn down, as I think we all are,” said Presson. “They’re doing all they can to get through it. I think the stress of being locked in your home, we’ve all experienced, and that’s what they’re going through again. I think that’s quite challenging. especially if you’re living alone. It’s hard to get into a routine that’s productive and positive.”
Presson stated that one player who has tested positive for COVID-19 has required additional medical treatment, though he is experiencing an additional health issue beyond the virus. His condition has recently improved.
Two members of the Elks entered COVID protocol in early August with offensive tackle SirVincent Rogers later confirming on Twitter that he’d tested positive for COVID-19. Canadian defensive end Kwaku Boateng entered protocol on Aug. 18 before the Elks departed for Vancouver.
No other CFL team has had any players test positive during the 2021 season.
The Elks have not identified any of the individuals who have tested positive because Presson claims it would be against their protocols as a business. Every player is currently in protocol as they are required to isolate.
The CFL recently loosened restrictions for players who are vaccinated, while leaving a more stringent set on those who are unvaccinated. Presson indicated that the team will enforce the tougher set of restrictions on all players regardless of vaccination status in order to prevent further spread of the virus, including having team dinners in the hotel.
“We’ll just draw everyone back in to closer proximity to ground zero,” he said. “Right now our players are isolating, they can’t even go outside to have a breath of fresh air for more than just a few minutes. So clearly that’s a mechanism that’s put in place to eliminate what we’re trying to do.”
Edmonton is currently slated to play against the Calgary Stampeders on Monday, Sept. 6 as part of the CFL’s annual Labour Day festivities.
If the Elks have no further positive tests, they will be permitted to end their isolation on Tuesday and return to the field on Wednesday. Barring any further setbacks, this should allow the Labour Day Classic to proceed as scheduled.
As for Edmonton’s postponed Week 4 game against the Toronto Argonauts, Presson said he’s hopeful the game will still be played at some point.
“We’re certainly trying to work through it,” said Presson. “We’re doing all we can to make sure that that game is going to be rescheduled.”