February 25, 2021

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Positive hotel quarantine worker may bring the tennis to a halt (updated)

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MELBOURNE, Australia – Once the tennis player quarantine ended and the action got under way, all the drama was mostly on the court.

Until Wednesday night.

The bad news, for all the events going on at Melbourne Park and then the Australian Open next week, is that the hotel quarantine worker who was announced as a positive test by the Victorian government Wednesday night worked at the Grand Hyatt.

That’s the nicest of the three hotels used to quarantine everyone from outside Australia who came in for the tennis.

Most of the top players were there.

And many are still there. It’s also one of the official hotels that is being used during the tournament. So some people checked out of there, or other hotels – and checked back in over the weekend. And the rest spread out around downtown Melbourne either in other hotels, or in private housing.

As a result, more than 500 people in town for the tennis were tested again Wednesday – alphabetically, in groups. Until they get back a negative result. They must isolate in their rooms. This, of course, is something they are more than accustomed to on this trip.

Early Thursday morning, Tennis Australia put out a short statement:

“Health Authorities have advised us that a Hotel Quarantine worker has tested positive for COVID-19. Those associated with the AO who quarantined at the hotel now need to be tested and isolate until they receive a negative test result. We will work with everyone involved to facilitate testing as quickly as possible. There will be no matches at Melbourne Park on Thursday. An update on the schedule for Friday will be announced later today.”

The entire Thursday order of play for the six ATP and WTA tournaments held on the Australian Open site was cancelled, as everyone got tested.

Hotel worker left Jan. 29

According to the Herald Sun, the 26-year-old man last worked at the Grand Hyatt on Jan. 29, which was the first day that some of the players exited their quarantine.

Which means that almost everyone who was staying there – literally hundreds of tennis people – are potential contacts and have to be traced.

The man took the nasal PCR test that day and tested negative.

Then, he came down with symptoms, took another test – and was positive.

The repercussions are significant.

More tests for everyone

(Just to add a little drama, the forecast for Friday is a 100 per cent chance of rain. And that forecast hasn’t changed all week.

It ‘s officially now chaos just when it seemed as though normal – okay, the new normal – had returned.

The atmosphere on Rod Laver Arena Wednesday night for the ATP Cup tie between Australia and Greece was … electric, in a socially distanced kind of way.

And now, who knows what the next move is.

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There were plenty of fans on hand Wednesday at Melbourne Park to watch Ashleigh Barty play doubles. They were kinder, simpler times.

“Return to normal” activities paused

This is how seriously they handle things in Melbourne.

Because of this one positive test, and even though there hasn’t been a single case of community transmission in a month, plans announced just the previous day to re-open offices to a 75 per cent capacity of workers have been put on hold.

At midnight Wednesday, the limits on private gatherings will be dropped down to 15 people from 30. It will become mandatory to wear masks inside again – whether in public or private settings. In others words, if people in Melbourne are having people over, they’re recommending everyone mask up.

“We have got onto this very quickly. People will be working throughout the night and they’ll work until we are confident that we’ve tracked, traced and tested everybody who’s in the frame here, everybody who could be infected by this person,” Victorian Premier Dan Andrews said during a news conference.

The contact tracing being what it is, they know the man went to a restaurant called the “Club Noble” Saturday afternoon, and to a driving range on Saturday night.

The Victorian authorities are urging people who have been at a bunch of other places to also get tested

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The Victorian authorities are asking people who were at a bunch of places around the city to get tested and isolate (from the Herald Sun)

Who gave who COVID?

Now, the big question: where did the man contract the coronavirus?

There had been no community transmission in Melbourne for 28 days. Not a single case.

And, did he spread it to others?

There was no statement from Tennis Australia on Wednesday night.

All of this comes on the heels of another COVID case that spread quickly in hotel quarantine. It was not the Australian Open quarantine, rather the regular government quarantine at an airport hotel.

It appears that no one in that hotel breached quarantine. But that the strain of virus was so contagious that it could have been transmitted by something as anodyne as the guests next door opening their door to pick up their meal at the same time.

(This happened on numerous occasions at my quarantine hotel. Although the player across the hall also was masked up to open the door. Her immediate neighbour, not so much).

Anyone who tested positive either off the tennis charter flights or in the days afterwards were transferred to the medi-hotel, which was the Holiday Inn.

Badosa and coach finally sprung

Around Jan. 20-21, Spanish player Paula Badosa and her coach Javier Marti tested positive for the coronavirus, and had to move to the Holiday Inn. It was nearly a week after the flights arrived, and included numerous negative tests before the positive ones.

They were among the few who potentially had the virus who were still in the Grand Hyatt for at least a little while – not that they are the culprits. But the authorities are now going to have to start trying to connect the dots.

Ironically, the pair were just sprung on Wednesday – right as the news was coming out.

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