SOUTH DUNDAS – The provincial government announced on June 14th its return-to-play framework for professional and elite sports in Ontario. The province did not issue any new guidelines for competitive and recreational sport for young people.
Professional sports leagues like the Canadian Football League and Canadian Premier League can return to training under rigorous testing protocols or even begin league play while the province is still in Step 1 of its three-step reopening plan.
The announcement by the Minister for Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture on Monday, Lisa MacLeod, focused only on professional and elite sport.
Ontario’s three-step reopening plan includes steps two and three with recreational and outdoor sports openings.
Ministry spokesman Dakota Brasier said the June 14 announcement was before the broader return to amateur and recreational sports.
“This is made possible by the reopening roadmap, which allows sports and leisure to gradually resume over the course of the summer,” said Brazier. “More details on steps two and three of the roadmap are expected in the coming weeks.”
During his media availability on June 14, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, the Eastern Ontario Health Unit’s health officer, said he was expecting the regulations soon.
“I suspect they’ll start with cohorts and things like that first and will loosen those up in the fall months,” he said. “We are still waiting for the regulations and our team is eagerly waiting to see these regulations.”
He went on to say that the EOHU had already received inquiries from communities and organizations about indoor sports such as hockey and when arenas could be used again.
Indoor recreational facilities can only be opened in the third step of the provincial plan.
Under Ontario’s previous color-coded COVID-19 framework, sports leagues could not be run for a season with no more than 50 players if a region was in green, yellow or orange conditions.
There were also restrictions in terms of parental viewers, the number of trainers and volunteers. This mainly focused on indoor sports in the winter.
Ontario entered step one of the reopening plan on June 11th. There are at least 21 days between each step of the plan, ie step two can start on July 2nd at the earliest, and step three on July 23rd.
To move from one step to the next, key indicators such as first and second dose vaccination rates, hospital capacity, intensive care unit capacity and COVID-19 infection rates are considered.
Unlike the previous color-coded frame, the Ontario government has taken a provincial rather than a regional approach to reopenings.