On Thursday morning, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced the outlook for the beginning of Phase II of the COVID-19 re-opening plan. Included in much of the conversation was the theme of professional sports and resumption of sporting seasons.
With COVID-19 restrictions slowly beginning to loosen, the proposed ‘Phase II’ will consider the re-opening of pools, gyms, nail salons, education facilities and restaurants, while increased occupancy in daycare centres an earlier education starting date (August 31) and the resumption of non-contact children’s sports will also be examined. Pallister did not provide an exact date for the beginning of Phase II, but did announce more information will come over the next few days.
As for professional sports within the province, Pallister said that teams of relevance (Winnipeg Jets, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Winnipeg Goldeyes, Valour FC) will be able to re-open training facilities/practice complexes beginning Friday – with appropriate league consent. Both the NHL and CFL have prohibited teams from practicing at this point, however, the NHL is allowing injured players to rehab at team facilities. This re-opening will come with a long list of strict protocol for facility managers, team staff, coaches and players to follow.
“Each sports organization and/or facility must establish a plan for how to minimize physical contact between participants,” the provincial plan indicated. “Outdoor activities are lower risk for transmission of COVID-19 than indoor activities. Guidance on performing a risk assessment for different sports and establishing plans will be posted online as soon as possible. All activities will require some modification from their usual operations; however, individual or group activities that have close prolonged face-to-face contact (e.g. boxing, football) are higher risk, and will require some modification of the sport or activity to minimize this type of contact.”
Physical distancing and the constant monitoring/cleaning of equipment are the main concerns, according to Pallister. Other precautions expected to be followed include the encouraged use of virtual training, daily self-screening, hygiene stations put into place, signage indicating physical distancing, enhanced equipment and facility cleaning, limited shower access, distanced dressing room setup, heavy use of disinfectant, changes to benches/sidelines or areas of group congregation.
Currently, a 14-day self-isolation period remains intact for international players. International players make up a significant portion of all Winnipeg-based professional teams. On Wednesday, Dr. Brent Roussin announced that the size of outdoor gatherings will be increased to 50 people, while indoor gatherings will be upped to 25 people, while maintaining proper physical distancing measures. Manitoba has had one new case of COVID-19 within the province since May 12.