Given all the protocols the team had in place, Ottawa Senators associate coach Jack Capuano never thought he’d come down with COVID-19.
This month, the physically fit and fully-vaccinated Capuano — along with 10 of the team’s players, all immunized as well — tested positive for the coronavirus. The outbreak led the NHL to decide Nov. 15 to postpone three of the Ottawa Senators’ games, in the hopes the situation would clear up.
Capuano was by far the sickest, and at one point ended up in a hospital emergency room.
“I went through a stretch there that was real tough. But you know, the last four or five days, I feel really good,” the 55-year-old told CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning.
“A lot of people ask where they get it, but I wouldn’t really have any idea. If you look around the NHL right now, the New York Islanders are hit with eight or nine guys, too. You can’t really put a finger on it … it just goes to show you how careful you have to be.”
Coach had 5-day fever
The NHL’s decision marked the first time this fall a major North American professional sports league decided to reschedule games because of a COVID-19 outbreak.
Drake Batherson, Austin Watson, Nick Holden, Josh Brown, Connor Brown, Dylan Gambrell, Matt Murray, Victor Mete, Alex Formenton and Nikita Zaitsev were all placed under the league’s pandemic protocol. The team was finally able to practise Nov. 20 and resumed league play on Nov. 22 with a 7-5 loss to the Colorado Avalanche.
Capuano said he tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 5, and while he initially felt fine, about five days after his test the disease hit him — and it hit hard.
“I had the chills. I had the teeth chattering. I had a fever, and this fever of 103 [F] just wouldn’t go away for four or five days,” Capuano said.
Concerned a blood infection might keep his fever from breaking, Capuano took himself to the emergency room. Eventually, however, his temperature began to drop on its own, and the fever gradually disappeared altogether.
Even so, Capuano still hasn’t fully regained his taste or smell, a common side effect of COVID-19. He’s also dealing with a lingering cough and has to clear his throat while speaking.
‘We’re doing the proper things’
Experts have said COVID-19 cases among fully vaccinated individuals — dubbed “breakthrough” infections if they occur at least two weeks after a second dose — remain rare, though their numbers are rising as more people overall get both their shots.
The chance someone fully vaccinated would get seriously ill or die is even less likely.
Despite the outbreak, Capuano said the Senators have been doing everything right in terms of trying to keep COVID-19 at bay.
“Our players seem to be all healthy right now. Our staff seems to be heathy right now. They’re testing every day. We’re doing the proper things as an organization. And hopefully we don’t go through this again,” he said.
Capuano fell ill after the team’s first U.S. road trip since the start of the pandemic — last year they played in an all-Canadian division — and while it’s possible that played a role, he can’t say for certain.
“So maybe, you could see some of this happening. But at the end of the day, I know the NHL is doing the right thing. And I know teams are doing the right thing,” Capuano said.
“And that’s all that you can do.”