OTTAWA — A top Canadian government health official says the Toronto Blue Jays' revised plan for home games is improved, but that there are still concerns about the proposal.
Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada's deputy chief public health officer, said plans to have the Blue Jays' and visiting teams' travel across the border regularly during the 60-game season remain an issue, with COVID-19 rates in the United States surging.
"In the case of Major League Baseball, what the construct is is the teams and Blue Jays included travelling back and forth across the international border. That I think is an issue," Njoo said.
MLB needs an exemption to a requirement that anyone entering Canada for non-essential reasons must self-isolate for 14 days. The U.S.-Canada border also remains closed to non-essential travel until at least Aug. 21.
Njoo says the Blue Jays have made adjustments to their original proposal, which didn't call for a modified quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the current plan, the Blue Jays and visiting teams will stay in a hotel connected to Rogers Centre, as the Toronto club is doing currently during training camp.
"Kudos to the Blue Jays for making that acknowledgment and making that sacrifice for what they are prepared to do during the regular season," Njoo said. "But the fact remains if the Blue Jays go across the border, I'm a sports fan, I know where they will be going to play games, Florida, the Tampa Bay Rays, the Miami Marlins.”
The Ontario government has approved the plan, but Ottawa also has to sign off on it to allow the Blue Jays to play in Toronto.
Njoo says the federal government prefers the NHL's model to baseball's plan.
The NHL's plan sees 24 teams arrive in Toronto and Edmonton later this month, with all players and staff being isolated from the general public. The teams won't leave Canada until they finish play.
"For the NHL model, it's closer to what we'd be comfortable with in the federal government because they've chosen the two hub cities in Canada," Njoo said.
Njoo says talks with the Blue Jays are ongoing.
An infectious disease expert says no matter how good the rules are, players and staff need to make it work on an individual level, too.
"The other thing is the players themselves have to take responsibility.
They face a major challenge ... who's going to monitor all this, and who's going to tell them 'This is the law?' asked Dr. Bhagirath Singh, director of the Centre for Human Immunology at Western University in London, Ont.
"It's something that we (Canada) have done a lot of hard work (on), and you don't want to squander it."
The Blue Jays' season opener is July 24 at Tampa Bay. The home opener is July 29 against the Washington Nationals.
— With files from The Associated Press.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 17, 2020
The Canadian Press