Town Health Department fines youth hockey program for COVID violations

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A youth hockey program was fined $2,100 by the Hopkinton Health Department for allegedly failing to ensure its players were following COVID rules following a team’s appearance in a tournament in Pennsylvania earlier this month.

The Marlborough-based Junior Bruins, run by Hopkinton resident Chris Masters, won the United States Premier Hockey League 18-and-under national championship on March 7.

Hopkinton health director Shaun McAuliffe said two players, including one from Hopkinton, showed symptoms of COVID-19 the day before leaving the state, yet they rode in a vehicle with other team members to Pennsylvania on March 3 and started competing in the tournament the following day.

“The kids both had headaches and runny noses,” McAuliffe said. “They were experiencing other symptoms that they were taking medication to combat. When they came back, one of the kids, the parents were concerned enough that they had him tested, and he resulted positive. The other one was kind of the same.”

Added McAuliffe: “We’re in a pandemic, and these are the key symptoms for COVID. But they knew that if they tested beforehand they wouldn’t have been able to play if they came up positive. I can’t prove that it was done consciously, but as a coach and an organizer, you’re responsible for making sure that [the rules are being followed].

“I get it, that you guys had a shot and you won the championship, but at what cost? What if someone dies? What about the Zamboni driver? They’re all like, ‘Well, we won the championship and now we’re not playing hockey anymore [as the season has ended], so it doesn’t matter.’ But it might matter to someone. And it might matter to the families who have sick kids right now, who are quarantined.”

McAuliffe also criticized the organization for failing to promptly provide a roster with contact information so health officials could start contact tracing. He said a roster was sent after a few days and multiple requests, but it had no contact information. He indicated the full information did not arrive until more than three weeks after the tournament had ended.

And, McAuliffe added, COVID issues arose with the same program earlier in the season, and there was a similar lack of cooperation.

Reached via email, Masters insisted his organization did what was asked.

“We have been 100 percent compliant and cooperative in getting any health department, Hopkinton included, information they need and following guidelines,” he stated. “We have reviewed the alleged violations and will be appealing the fine.”

That’s not how McAuliffe sees it, and that’s why he assessed the penalty, which includes seven violations, each assessed at $300.

“I try to give everybody the benefit of the doubt, but if you don’t [follow the rules], if this becomes a repeat thing, or you’re putting people in jeopardy, I’ll issue a fine,” he said, noting that the state’s Department of Public Health requested that he take action. “My job is to enforce the regulations.”

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