Manitoba chief public health officer Brent Roussin reviewing CFL hub city plans

Manitoba chief public health officer Brent Roussin hinted further at the potential for Winnipeg hosting the CFL as a hub city amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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 for a shortened season. Roussin being open to the concept improves the league’s chances for playing games in 2020. 

“For public health the biggest issue is the protection of Manitobans, so we need to assure that whatever the plans are is not going to put the risk of transmission or importation of this virus on the backs of Manitobans,” Roussin said on Monday, July 13.

“There’s a number of strategies that can achieve that I believe. We’re looking at things, probably going to have more of an update on that in the near future, I don’t have any specific updates on that. Public health has been involved and has been reviewing some plans on what that could look like but we don’t have anything finalized as of yet.”

As it stands on July 13, 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. With just one active case it would be the safest place for the three-down league to take the field in a hub city model.

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 Manitoba welcoming the league.

Canada has done well in flattening the curve and causing COVID-19 cases to trend downward. However, the concern would be players travelling into Canada from all over the United States, including places which are currently hotspots for COVID-19.

“The challenge there is the importation of that virus. If you look at it as the perspective of a team, you have to be very careful to not import the virus where a transmission event could occur widespread within the team environment as well,” Roussin said.

“This would be best managed through a combination of self isolation as well strategic testing. There are ways of dramatically reducing the risk of that. For pubic health in Manitoba, first and foremost we need to protect the health of Manitobans.”

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.