CFL players will be tested, must self-isolate, before entering Winnipeg bubble

Manitoba’s chief provincial health officer Dr. Brent Roussin provided important clarification on the CFL’s hub city plan.

That came after controversy following comments by Manitoba public medical officials indicating that league players would only be tested for COVID-19 when they arrived in Winnipeg.

“Those players will in fact be tested before they leave their jurisdiction to come here, then again tested on their first day here, on their sixth day here, and on their 13th day here,” Roussin told reporters.

“The isolation requirements will be 14 days in their home jurisdiction, tested, come to Winnipeg, then a further period of seven days of self-isolation before they can begin team activities.”

The reports of a more lax testing protocol had stoked fears that players coming from United States hotspots could import an outbreak of the virus to Manitoba before they even entered isolation. Health, seniors and active living minister Cameron Friesen was emphatic in his explanation of its merits.

“The plan that the CFL has proposed is a robust plan, but I think there are a couple things Manitobans need to understand. No fans in the stands, that’s number one. This is not something that will get fans coming to the stadium. Number two, the hotels at which all of the players and the coaches and staff will be staying at are closed to everyone else, they are only open to the players,” Friesen explained.

“That total isolation period is as long as 21 days, 14 days before you travel here and seven days once you get here, provided that is all approved by the feds. And then it’s only players, coaches and staff traveling to Winnipeg. No out of town fans are coming from other jurisdictions.”

He also gave insight into how the league would be enforcing the integrity of the bubble, something which the league has remained quiet on.

“If any there is any violation of those rules, any violation of the bubble principle put in place by the CFL, that player goes home,” Friesen said.

Dr. Roussin also dismissed concerns that the league would be unable to enforce the pre-entry self-isolation of players spread across the continent.

“We have 49 active cases right now that have to self-isolate and we don’t have people standing outside their doors watching,” he said. “This is part of the public health response, there is a lot riding on it for these players and these teams to ensure this bubble is COVID-free.”

The Manitoba government feels that motivation should be enough to keep all parties in line.

Much still needs to be determined before a hub city season is even possible. The league is in a contentious negotiation with players over their contracts and guarantees for a shortened season, as well as an amended CBA.

They have a self-imposed deadline of Friday to reach an agreement, but the two sides do not appear close to a solution. The plan will also require some federal government funding, which has yet to materialize and faced significant opposition. An amended broadcast deal with TSN is also needed.

The Manitoba provincial government is behind the idea to the tune of $2.5 million in funding, with hope that the hub city expenditure will provide a massive economic infusion. They believe this is the plan to make that happen.

“This is a plan that has the support of public health, it is a plan that is significant and we believe it meets the test,” said Friesen.

All should hope so, because a failing grade would have dire consequences in Manitoba.