TORONTO — A "Battle of the Blades" executive producer says a woman from the show's team who tested positive for COVID-19 is in self-isolation in Toronto with no symptoms, and the creators are confident the case is isolated and production can resume next week.
Lindsay Cox, who is also senior vice-president at Insight Productions, says they can't reveal the woman's name or her role on the upcoming sixth season of the televised skating competition due to privacy issues.
But Cox does say the woman was tested for COVID-19 on Monday through a private testing agency on-site, as part of the production's regular pandemic protocols.
The result came back later that evening and Cox says they notified the appropriate parties and used contact tracing on the woman, who was already alone at the time the positive test result came in.
Cox says anyone who had been in contact with the woman is now isolating, has not tested positive and is not symptomatic.
"We feel very confident that we have isolated this," Cox said in a phone interview, noting their intention is to go back into production on Tuesday.
Insight Productions revealed the case on Wednesday, noting it's halting preparations and training for the show as a "precautionary measure" to ensure the safety of cast and crew, who Cox said "are truly being responsible" about the situation.
CBC, which airs the show, said it supports the decision and will postpone the planned Oct. 15 premiere. The network said it will share scheduling updates as soon as possible.
Cox said the woman is abiding by Toronto Public Health guidelines for self-isolation and is not to go outside, except for a medical appointment, if required. Producers are monitoring her health and ensuring that a doctor speaks to her regularly.
"The person who tested positive will not be returning until following quarantine, but then will be returning to the show, and we are confident she'll remain asymptomatic," Cox said.
"Anyone who was in touch with her who is in isolation also will not return until all the guidelines have been followed, and as testing continues to show negatives coming back."
"Hockey Night in Canada" personality Ron MacLean hosts "Battle of the Blades," which returned to the CBC last year, nearly six years after it left the air.
This year's instalment of the celebrity on-ice contest has already started training and filming interviews with COVID-19 protocols at the CAA Centre in Brampton, Ont.
Video screens in the arena will show a virtual audience watching and reacting to the live performances from their homes and communities.
Olympic ice dance champion Scott Moir, hockey champion Natalie Spooner and professional skater Elladj Balde are this season's judges, alongside world champion figure skater Kurt Browning as "elite battle expert."
The live-competition series sees hockey players and figure skaters pairing up to perform on-ice dance routines for an audience and judges, with the winners getting $100,000 in prize money that they donate to charities of their choice.
The production administers COVID-19 tests either daily or twice weekly, depending on the department, said Cox, noting they have "very strict" protocols and guidelines to ensure safety on set.
The private testing agency sends the results to a lab and usually gets the results back within the same day, she said.
The production works with doctors, a wellness director, a COVID-19 compliance officer and other experts.
Other pandemic protocols on set include temperature checks, masks and pods of people to limit contact. For instance, each hockey player and figure skater pair is in a contained pod with a coach and choreographer, who don't work with any of the other teams.
This season has eight pairs of 16 skaters: Violetta Afanasieva and Anthony Stewart; Meghan Agosta and Andrew Poje; Jennifer Botterill and Eric Radford; Jessica Campbell and Asher Hill; Meagan Duhamel and Wojtek Wolski; Carlotta Edwards and Kris Versteeg; Vanessa James and Akim Aliu; and Kaitlyn Weaver and Bryan Bickell.
This isn't the first Canadian production to be derailed by COVID-19 concerns.
In August, two people involved in the St. John's-shot television series "Hudson & Rex" tested positive for the virus.
Cox said Insight Productions has been evolving its COVID-19 protocols as things change with Health Canada, and it is now looking at further ways to reduce contamination between departments. It is also working closely with the wardrobe department to figure out ways to ensure the skaters' masks stay on their faces while they're on the ice.
"There have been moments where they fall off, they slide down, so we're working really closely with how we can create new technologies such as glue-on technology, how masks can get affixed into hair," she said.
"We are looking at that really, really closely and determining what's required for the on-air performances."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 7, 2020.
The Canadian Press