Manitoba’s chief medical health officer Brent Roussin details Winnipeg CFL ‘bubble’ plans

Manitoba’s chief medical health officer Dr. Brent Roussin will play a lead role for Winnipeg’s bid to host the Canadian Football League in a hub city model.

Roussin’s approach has the province positioned as the safest place for CFL play to take place amid the COVID-19 pandemic. If the league is able to agree with the players’ association on a return to play collective bargaining agreement for a shortened 2020 season, it would be in a bubble concept.

“The league is not going to be doing a lot of asymptomatic testing. It’s going to be ensuring people are self-isolating, their might be testing early on to secure that bubble,” Roussin said.

“Once the bubble is secured, there’s not going to be regular testing, there’s going to be testing should anyone develop symptoms and then that would be a typical testing and contact investigation as we do anywhere else, so that would be done through public health.”

Just like any other people living in Manitoba who had coronavirus symptoms, public health will cover the cost of testing those individuals, Roussin confirmed. Manitoba has counted 343 total coronavirus cases since the virus started its spread, by far the least of any province which has a CFL team inside its borders.

Anyone potentially travelling to Manitoba for CFL purposes would have to self-isolate over a yet to be determined period of time, based on where the individuals come from. No team events will allowed until the self-isolating has been completed. However, players, coaches and team personnel won’t have to self-isolate before travelling to Winnipeg.

“These are not individuals that are travelling to Winnipeg that can interact with other Manitobans. They’ll be contained within a bubble, within the league bubble. There’s going to be a period of mandatory self-isolation, there’s going to be mandatory testing that’s taking place in there,” Roussin said.

“We’re going to be holding them responsible for ensuring that the protocols are adhered to. We’re certainly going to want to know how the plans are being implemented and how they’re being maintained. It’s a plan that takes in the consideration of the health of Manitobans.”

Based on what Roussin described, the bubble would consist of accommodations along with practice and game facilities. He used an example if players wanted to go eat at a restaurant, the only way it would be possible is if the place was shutdown to the public — only the bubble individuals could be in there at one time.

“Any things outside of that would have to maintain the bubble format. Maintaining the bubble is important to Manitobans, but it’s important for any sports event because if you have cases introduced into what should be a COVID-free bubble, that compromises the entire season,” Roussin said.

“There is a lot of motivation to keep that bubble very tight. It would certainly be in our place to ensure our orders are being adhered to.”

If a person contracts COVID-19 while inside the bubble, medical professionals will trace evidence of inter-bubble spread and determine if there was close, prolonged contact with other individuals. There are designs of measures to limit the possibility, but if it happens the affected people would have to self-isolate within the bubble.

“We look at a combination of the self-isolation period, plus testing, plus very close symptom monitoring and limited interactions,” Roussin said.

The CFL has conducted extensive consultations with public health for its hub city plan in Winnipeg, which has been thoroughly reviewed by Roussin. Should the worst case scenario come to reality and an outbreak occurs in the bubble, it would be the doctors who make the decision as to whether the season proceeds.

“That’s going to put a real challenge on continuing with the season. The call for a season – public health would have that authority to stop that,” Roussin said.

“It’s in everyone’s best interest to ensure that the bubble is as solid as it possibly can.”

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