Chris Presson: Elks player contracted COVID-19 by ‘unintentionally’ breaking protocol

Edmonton Elks’ president Chris Presson learned the origin of his team’s COVID-19 outbreak over the weekend and shared it with a local radio station on Monday morning.

“We had someone break protocol unintentionally,” Presson told 630 CHED. “He was trying to take care of his body and had a massage therapist come about to try to take care of his body. He apparently contracted it from her.”

Presson also indicated that “a couple” of the players’ wives caught COVID-19 before the team was put into isolation and unknowingly brought it into their homes. They then infected their husbands, who in turn spread it among their teammates.

“That’s where it came from and that’s how quickly it spreads. That should also hopefully squelch the rumours that guys are out and about and partying and things like that,” said Presson.

On Friday, Presson told the media that the team was considering asking all players to follow the stricter set of guidelines reserved for unvaccinated players as an extra precaution to prevent future outbreaks. He walked that back on Monday, suggesting it could cause an issue with the union.

“It could be termed by the (CFL) Players’ Association that maybe we’re out of bounds and penalizing those that are vaccinated,” said Presson. “I think it’s more likely that we’ll take some extra steps with potential additional security on the road to make sure nobody’s leaving an area that they shouldn’t be leaving.”

The team also plans to have meals together in the hotel rather than allowing players to go out to restaurants on their own, which is currently permitted for vaccinated players.

As of Friday, 83.5 percent of Edmonton’s tier-one personnel are vaccinated. Presson indicated that there have been no new vaccinations over the past few days that he’s aware of, but more players have recently shown interest in becoming vaccinated.

“I just hope and pray that they follow through,” said Presson. “It’s not that it will eliminate it, but it certainly greatly reduces the chance that you contract it and then if you do contract it after being double-vaccinated, the likelihood of you transmitting it and feeling bad is substantially less.”

Presson confirmed that the team will return to the practice field on Wednesday provided that no new positive tests occur. The team has now been in isolation for just over a week, which means the chances of any further new cases is extremely low.

No new cases were detected on Sunday, bringing the string of days in which no positive tests occurred to four.

“It’s been quite some time. You might think, ‘Well, ten-twelve days isn’t that long, Chris’ but when you do this for a living and you’re used to looking out your window and seeing practice ongoing and you haven’t seen that in quite some time, it kinda brings you to a grinding halt.”

Presson spoke to the media on Friday and was critical of the coverage of his team, suggesting that there was a lack of empathy being shown to the players who had contracted COVID-19. He reiterated those thoughts on Monday, suggesting that he felt the tone of coverage had improved over the weekend.

“When you’re dealing with human beings and their livelihood and their lives and they have families — some of whom are here and some of whom aren’t — it can create a pretty lonely atmosphere,” said Presson.

“I just wanted to bring the human element back into play so that everyone understood that 4.4 million people have died from this virus. We’re certainly trying not to get the virus and unfortunately we’re the first and let’s hope the only team to have an outbreak.”

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