If you're worried about an increased threat of catching coronavirus and plan to avoid the crowds at the World Women's Curling Championship, Kathy Henderson wants to put your mind at ease.
The chief executive officer for Curling Canada says every possible safeguard is being considered to ensure the safety of the athletes, officials, volunteers and fans who will converge on the city for the nine-day championship, March 14-22.
"Right now, as we proceed with proper precautions, the risk is extremely low of an outbreak in Prince George," said Henderson. "On behalf of Curling Canada we have confidence the health authorities in Prince George are prepped. The World Curling Federation has been communicating with the teams and the member nations about what they should be doing. We are ensuring that everybody knows proper public health protocols and procedures.
"The situation can change, and when and if it does, we'll be prepped for any change. Right now, everything's a go and we're taking all necessary precautions."
Henderson receives daily updates from the World Curling Federation, which is the ultimate authority for international curling events, and is also communicating with all levels of government and health authorities.
Concerns have been raised due to the fact four of the 13 women's teams coming to Prince George -China, Japan, South Korea and Italy - are countries where the highest incidences of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases have been reported.
"I don't know all the details on all the teams but what I do know is many of the teams have been practicing in Canada for weeks, if not months," said Henderson.
More than 100,000 cases worldwide have now been confirmed. Of the 3,400 deaths attributed to the virus, 3,015 were in China. In B.C., eight new cases were diagnosed Thursday and 51 people nationwide have been infected. Although one of the latest B.C. cases, a woman in her 80s, is in critical condition in Vancouver hospital, nobody has died in Canada from COVID-19.
Team Canada skip Kelly Einarson of Gimli, Man., said she's not fearful the virus will overshadow the curling when begins her quest for the world title next Saturday at CN Centre with her team - third Val Sweeting, second Shannon Birchard, lead Briane Meilleur, alternate Jennifer Clark-Rouire and coach Patti Wuthrich.
“I haven’t really worried about that too much,” said Einarson. “I’ve just kind of focused on us and our performance and not worrying too much about the coronavirus.
“I think we’re taking the necessary precautions and we’re just making sure we’re doing all those right things. I am not worried about it, as long as we’re doing what we can to keep ourselves healthy.”
National women's team coach and manager Elaine Dagg-Jackson said the team is taking the medical advice of Bob McCormick, the lead medical doctor for the Canadian Olympic Committee and also has a full-time health and wellness officer, Karen Watson, who guides the athletes on issues concerning nutrition, supplements and doping issues.
"This whole process is about impeccable hygiene, including hand-washing, covering your nose and mouth when coughing, trying to cough and sneeze into your arm away from others (and) avoiding close contact with anybody who's ill," said Dagg-Jackson.
"We have precautions if any team member becomes ill. There is a process for self-isolation and special care. We have all sorts of backup plans in place, but really the whole thing hinges on due diligence and impeccable hygiene.
"I think the most interesting thing about this whole thing is how aware it has made everybody about preparation and being prepared, something that curling is very good at."
Prince George established its reputation as a capable host for large-scale curling events when it hosted the 2000 Scottie Tournament of Hearts women's national championship and in November 2009 when the Road to the Roar, the final event before the Olympic trials, came to CN Centre.
"We're really excited about this event, we expect Prince George to be a really great host city, they've been wonderful to work with," said Henderson, speaking from Kingston, Ont., where the Brier is being played this week.
"We're looking really forward to seeing Team Einarson wear the maple leaf and seeing them do very well there. We're all proud of them."