Blue Jays won’t get federal response to comeback plan by weekend

TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays won’t know by this weekend whether they’ll get permission from the federal government to play in Canada anytime soon, a government official with knowledge of the talks told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

A spokesperson for the team said the club continued to work with the federal government to play at Rogers Center from July 30 and expected to receive a response by Friday.

But the government official familiar with the talks said the Blue Jays won’t know if they can play in Toronto by the weekend. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as no one has been allowed to discuss the talks publicly.

The Canada-US border remains closed to non-essential travel. Major League Baseball will require an exemption for vaccinated and unvaccinated players and team personnel to play games in Canada.

Another official familiar with the talks reiterated that the team was awaiting a response on Friday based on conversations with the government and said it was the club’s breaking point in terms of time. The official noted that the team have a long stay at home starting July 30 which accounts for more than 25% of the remaining games at a crucial point in the competition. The Blue Jays are tied for third in the American League East standings.

A third official, who spoke on the merits as they were also not allowed to speak in public, said it would be best to have a deadline to move what the club needs from Buffalo and prepare for Toronto operations, including ticket sales, although they’ve already started preparations at Rogers Center in Toronto.

If the Blue Jays do not receive a bye for the 10-game homestand which begins on July 30, the next homestand will begin on August 20. The approval could come in the middle of a federal election set to be called next month. Offering exemptions for travel to Canada is politically sensitive. Fully vaccinated Americans and non-essential foreigners remain barred from entering Canada as the government strives to have a high percentage of Canadians fully vaccinated by the end of July.

The Blue Jays played home games during the shortened 2020 season at Buffalo and started that season in Dunedin, Fla., Before moving to Buffalo. The Canadian government has not allowed the team to play at home in Toronto due to the risk of the spread of COVID-19, citing frequent travel required to the United States during a baseball season

Toronto last played at the 49,000-seat Rogers Center on September 29, 2019, an 8-3 victory over Tampa Bay.

Blue Jays ace Hyun-Jin Ryu signed with the team ahead of the 2020 season and is yet to start a game in Toronto.

The team noted in a statement this week that Major League Baseball has high vaccination rates, with more than 85% of players and staff fully vaccinated. The club said vaccinated players and staff from home and visiting teams will need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test without a quarantine requirement and that fully vaccinated people will also undergo weekly testing.

The team said unvaccinated and partially vaccinated people at home and visiting teams will adhere to a modified quarantine during their first 14 days in Canada. They will be allowed to leave their residence only to participate in baseball activities at the Rogers Center.

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