Health Canada ‘very comfortable’ with CFL bubble protocols; 2020 season decision delayed by ‘machinery of government’

Canada’s top public health officials were positive about the Canadian Football League’s return to play proposal on Friday.

The CFL has proposed the creation of hub city in Winnipeg, similar to the NHL’s model. According to officials, the plan to create a CFL bubble would require players to self-isolate for 14 days prior to arrival in the Manitoba capital, then for another seven once inside the bubble. Players would be tested on their first day in Winnipeg, sixth day and 13th day, with no outside persons allowed into the bubble. Violators would be sent home immediately.

“We’ve had very good discussions with the Canadian Football League in terms of their proposal on health and safety protocols for a potential regular season. From my perspective, from a public health perspective, we are quite encouraged by the model being put forward,” deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo said.

Dr. Njoo expanded on his positively about the plan a week ago and the view has not changed. Still, no official approval has been granted due to the necessary cooperation from the rest of the federal government.

“It’s looking very good. From a pure technical assessment, I think we are very comfortable with what’s been put forward but there are certainly other elements, what we call the overall government of Canada decision-making process, so I can’t give you a timeline in terms of that whole process,” Dr. Njoo said.

“But in terms of the public health perspective and the assessments we’ve done within the public health agency of Canada, we are quite comfortable. I would also add that this includes the discussions we’ve had with Manitoba public health officials as well. From my understanding, they are very comfortable as well with what has been put forward by the CFL.”

The potential target date for kick-off of the possible six-game schedule would be October 1. However, there have already been three deadlines pass — July 23, which was shifted to July 24 and July 31 — without any final decision on whether the CFL will play or not. As for when an official government decision could be reached, Dr. Njoo could provide no answers.

“I can’t speak to the machinery of government, I can only speak to what my role and that of the public health agency has been in this process,” he said.

The federal government is still in the process of evaluating an interest-free loan request from the CFL valued at close to $30 million. While approval of the public health side is essential to receiving that loan, it appears that public health officials can’t give an official stamp of approval until word comes down from above.