How to avoid norovirus in PyeongChang? Do what U.S. hockey players do

Norway may lead the medal count in PyeongChang by a mile, but no single entity has had a broader impact on the proceedings at the 2018 Winter Olympics than norovirus. The potent pathogen has officially struck 283 people in South Korea’s host city, including the father of U.S. men’s hockey player James Wisniewski.

To keep the illness from spreading through the American locker room, officials have advised the skaters to forgo traditional postgame handshakes in favor of relatively sterile fist bumps.

“It’s good,” Jim Slater, an alternate captain for Team USA, told the Associated Press’ Stephen Whyno. “I do it to everybody. Touching hands and stuff, you never know where hands are. Just being cautious.”

Not all American hockey players are changing their habits, though. The women’s team opted for handshakes over fist bumps with Finland following a 5-0 flattening by Team USA at the Gangneung Hockey Centre on Monday.

“That’s part of what’s special about hockey is the mutual respect and the handshake after,” U.S. forward Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson said. “In these tournament settings, it’s not prelims anymore, so I think shaking hands … it’s just respect.”

America’s James Wisniewski skates during the Men’s Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group B game at Gangneung Hockey Centre on February 16, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Getty)

If the magnitude of the moment matters, Lamoureux-Davidson might have a point. The women’s team advanced to the gold-medal game, against either Canada or the Olympic Athletes from Russian, with its latest triumph. The men, on the other hand, must win three more matches to reach the final.

Then again, viruses don’t care about what’s at stake or when. That, along with the United States’ slumping medal count, is all the more reason for the American men to modify their postgame ritual. Keeping Wisniewski’s father, 62-year-old Jim Wisniewski, quarantined to one of the two apartments his family rented for the Olympics should help ensure the squad’s health, as well.

Team USA can ill-afford a sudden outbreak of norovirus if it’s going to medal in men’s hockey, let alone go for gold in the absence of NHL players. That quest continues on Tuesday in a playoff qualification game against Slovakia, whom the Americans topped 2-1 on Feb. 16.

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