Ontario tells pro and elite athletes — play ball!

Unlike other jurisdictions, there is no set date yet for when fans can return to stands

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Ontario has released a framework to allow the return of professional and elite amateur sport including the Blue Jays and Raptors, Lisa MacLeod, Heritage, Sport Tourism and Culture Industries Minister, has announced.

The return-to-play guidelines would apply to 18 leagues covering six sports, MacLeod said Monday.

“That means there is a path forward for the Toronto Blue Jays, the Toronto Raptors, to come back home if the federal government permits, allows for our Redblacks, Ticats, the Argos and our OHL teams and others given our present health conditions,” she said.

The framework stretches to cover events hosted by a national sport organization either funded by Sport Canada or recognized by the Canadian Olympic or Paralympic Committee if the event includes athletes, coaches and officials competing to be a part of Team Canada or an international single sport event authorized by Sport Canada.

The return-to-play rules include a seven-day quarantine, strict health and safety protocols and dedicated venues, MacLeod said.

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Unlike other jurisdictions, there is no set date yet for when fans can return to stands.

MacLeod said she is working with Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams on this issue.

“We aren’t Alberta and we aren’t Quebec,” she said. “Ontario has its own distinct challenges with COVID-19.”

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The new return-to-play framework also doesn’t address regular children’s sports leagues.

Step One of the reopening plan, which took effect Friday, allows minor leagues to conduct drills and dry land training with no physical contact.

There is no set date for a move to Step Two but it would permit children to participate in limited return to play with no contact.

“And by the time we get to Step Three, we should be seeing at some point in August a return to play with controlled environments,” MacLeod said, again referring to minor leagues. “At this time we’re not looking at accelerating anyone else simply because we want to continue to limit mobility and the opportunity for COVID-19 to continue to spread.”

aartuso@postmedia.com

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