The Blue Jays move players to their Florida spring training facility as they await news from the Canadian government about playing in Toronto amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Ontario Prime Minister Doug Ford said Monday that municipal, provincial and federal authorities "gave their approval" but the Blue Jays are seeking a letter of support from the federal government.
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He also said that Dr. David Williams, Ontario medical director, requires some adjustments to the plan presented to play MLB, which health authorities have been reviewing.
Ford said he was in talks with Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro all weekend.
The team subsequently issued a statement saying it is beginning to relocate players and staff to its training facility in Dunedin, Florida, to begin evaluating the players.
"The team will either board a charter flight to Toronto to begin training under a modified quarantine, isolated from the general public, or remain in Florida to conduct the training," the team said in a statement.
"The Blue Jays are hoping to host a training camp and play regular season home games in Toronto and will continue to work with this possibility."
A couple more teams had thought about resuming training at their Florida facility, but that possibility was thwarted by an increase in coronavirus cases in the state. Most clubs intend to train at their regular season stadiums.
Anna Maddison, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Public Health Agency, said the federal government continues to argue with the Blue Jays. Maddison said Toronto Public Health and the Ontario Ministry of Health are also actively engaged with the Blue Jays.
"All parties agree to mitigate the risks of the spread of COVID-19 in Canada," he said in an email.
MLB requires a waiver of restrictions that apply to the rest of Canada during the pandemic. Anyone entering Canada for non-essential reasons must be isolated for 14 days, and the U.S.-Canada border is closed to non-essential travel until at least July 21.
Dr. Andrew Morris, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto and medical director of the Antimicrobial Management Program at the Sinai-University Health Network, said it would be a bad sight for governments to turn a blind eye to public health For the purpose of resuming professional sports just as Ontario is controlling its COVID-19 numbers.
"This sets a rather worrying precedent by allowing people from high-prevalence areas and giving up quarantine for them," Morris said. "We have been quite cautious in opening our border. I suppose they are now essential purposes plus baseball."
Morris noted that the NBA will play within a confined area and the NHL within two, but baseball's plan to have all 30 teams traveling makes it difficult to imagine that there will be no spread of the virus.
Morris said Canadian health officials would lose credibility if they grant the exemption.
“These are decisions that go beyond public health. I really hope it's not counterproductive, "he said.
A senior Canadian government official said last week that if MLB presented an acceptable restart plan to the government, a waiver letter similar to that provided to the NHL could be provided. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
MLB announced last week that it will have a regular 60-game season that begins July 23-24 on stadiums with no fans.
Federal and local health authorities in Canada have approved a plan for the NHL to play in Toronto or Edmonton, Alberta, but the plan does not involve round-trip travel between the United States and Canada. That decision last week comes as the NHL enters the advanced stages of selecting its core cities, probably two, from an original list of seven in the United States and three in Canada. Vancouver, British Columbia has been excluded from consideration.