The Toronto Blue Jays will not be allowed to play home games in Toronto amid the coronavirus pandemic, Canadian officials ruled on Saturday.
The Blue Jays had been given clearance by the city of Toronto and the province of Ontario to play their 30 scheduled regular-season home games at Rogers Centre. However, the Canadian government declined the team’s request.
“Based on the best-available public health advice, we have concluded the cross-border travel required for MLB regular-season play would not adequately protect Canadians’ health and safety,” Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced in his statement Saturday. “As a result, Canada will not be issuing a National Interest Exemption for the MLB’s regular season at this time.”
It was reported earlier this week that the Blue Jays were exploring potential alternative sites. Those included Buffalo, New York. In a statement released Saturday, the team says it hopes to finalize plans soon.
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) July 18, 2020
The Blue Jays are scheduled to open the regular season Friday night in Tampa against the Rays. Toronto’s first home game was scheduled for July 30 against the Washington Nationals.
Why the Blue Jays’ request was denied
The Blue Jays and Major League Baseball were seeking an exemption to the requirement that anyone entering Canada for nonessential reasons must self-isolate for 14 days. This ruling is basically Canada’s government saying MLB’s season is not essential business, or at least not essential enough to risk undoing the success they’ve had flattening the coronavirus curve.
According to an Associated Press report, the U.S.-Canada border will remain closed to nonessential travel until at least Aug. 21. If lifted, that could theoretically allow the Blue Jays to play games in Toronto by September. Though that seems unlikely with Canadian officials committed to limiting travel back-and-forth until the United States can get a handle on the pandemic.
Why the NHL received an exemption
While MLB and the Blue Jays were denied, the National Hockey League was granted an exemption for its reopening on July 30. That’s because the circumstances presented are completely different.
The remainder of the NHL season will be confined to two Canadian cities — Edmonton and Toronto. Teams will only leave once their season is over. The Blue Jays would have come and gone multiple times during MLB’s 60-game season.
The Blue Jays did get an exemption to hold summer camp in Toronto, but that agreement required players to isolate in hotel rooms. Once the Blue Jays leave for their exhibition game in Boston on Tuesday, they’ll be out of Canada until the season ends or regulations in Canada change.
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