The Ontario government says the necessity of frequent travel between the U.S. and Canada is the complicating factor holding up approval for Major League Baseball to play in Toronto amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Lisa Anne MacLeod, Ontario’s Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Sport, said MLB’s plan is more difficult to approve because all 30 teams plan to be travelling. The NHL and NBA are intending to use hub cities.
Federal and local health authorities in Canada have approved a plan for the NHL to play in either Toronto or Edmonton, but the plan does not involve travel back between the U.S. and Canada. The NHL is selecting hub cities, most likely two, where all the teams will play.
MLB requires an exemption to a requirement anyone entering Canada for non-essential reasons must self-isolate for 14 days. The U.S.-Canada border remains closed to non essential travel until at least July 21.
Several Blue Jays players and staff recently tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The team shut down its Dunedin facility on June 19 after a player showed COVID symptoms.
The Blue Jays are moving players to their spring training facility in Dunedin, Florida, where they will be tested and while they await word from the Canadian government. A number of players and staff already tested positive for the virus.
The Blue Jays said in a statement Monday that the club has started moving players and personnel to Dunedin to begin the intake screening and isolation process. The Jays said they will then either board a charter flight to Toronto to begin training under a modified quarantine, or remain in Florida to conduct training.
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Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Monday that “municipal, provincial and federal health folks” have given the team the OK, but they are still awaiting a letter of support from the federal government.
It’s unclear if the Blue Jays would also be playing their home games in Toronto, or if permission is being granted for training only.
Players would arrive in Toronto on Wednesday with camp officially beginning Friday. An abbreviated 60-game regular season would begin either July 23 or 24 and last 66 days.
Florida has been ravaged by COVID-19 lately, announcing 9,585 new cases Saturday and 8,585 newly reported Sunday.
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Players arriving at camp this week must undergo an immediate temperature check and two COVID-19 tests — a diagnostic PCR test and a blood-drawn antibody test.
MLB announced its plans for an abbreviated season last week, saying most teams would play in their home ballparks and travel for games against division rivals and teams in the corresponding divisions of their opposite league.
Toronto would play the bulk of its schedule (40 games) against fellow American League East teams — 10 games each against the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles — and the remaining 20 games against the National League East’s New York Mets, Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies.
The 2020 MLB season was supposed to begin March 26. Spring training was halted March 13 due to the pandemic.