Manitoba’s chief public health officer Brent Roussin sees ‘benefits’ of Winnipeg CFL hub

Manitoba’s chief public health officer Brent Roussin believes there are positives which could come from Winnipeg hosting CFL teams as a hub city.

Roussin provided an update on the COVID-19 cases in Manitoba, except there were no new positive tests in the province. As it stands on July 6, Manitoba has counted 325 total coronavirus cases since the virus started its spread, by far the least of any province which has a CFL team inside its borders. It would be the safest place for the three-down league to take the field inside a bubble.

“We haven’t had a specific discussion with the CFL on that. Certainly, we’ve provided some risk mitigation strategies to many of our professional sports teams, including the Winnipeg football club, so we still have ongoing discussions,” Roussin said.

“I think that given our numbers there’s a possibility that a plan that would meet public health requirements could be put in place, but we don’t have anything specific on that as of yet.”

Manitoba citizens, premier Brian Pallister and Roussin have played major roles in keeping the virus contained to small numbers and almost non-existent in the province. The CFL has Winnipeg atop its rankings of possible temporary homes for return to play, if the lengthy list of details can be worked out. Roussin stated “there could be benefits” for a hub model in Winnipeg.

“We’d have to take a very close look at any plans that are submitted and we’d provide feedback for that,” Roussin said.

Athletes who are within Canadian borders and travel to Manitoba must self isolate for seven days under the team guidelines with frequent testing during that time period and the following seven days they are self isolating other than team activities. Not going out and about in Manitoba, only staying with their respective team. However, those coming from the United States fall under a different set of stipulation.

“The epidemiology in our southern neighbours is concerning. Our risk in Manitoba continues to be importation of the virus. I certainly don’t foresee any lifting of the international travel restrictions any time soon, although that’s not dealt with by the province,” Roussin said.

The CFL regular season was scheduled to kick-off on Thursday, June 11, but commissioner Randy Ambrosie has stated the earliest the league might return to play is September. Roussin being open to the hub concept improves the league’s chances for playing games in 2020. 

“We have to learn to start living with this virus,” Roussin said. “We have to try to find ways to get back to the things that we enjoy doing, but we have to ensure we’re protecting the public as we do so.”

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.