Baseball fans say they’re glad to be attending live games again, but some of them are questioning the effectiveness of provincial COVID-19 measures governing stadiums like the Rogers Centre.
Some Blue Jays fans say social distancing and masking protocols aren’t being well followed at the Rogers Centre during games, creating an opportunity for the more contagious COVID-19 Delta variant to spread.
“I probably haven’t been in a crowd that big since COVID — I felt very uncomfortable,” said Tyler Partridge who attended a Blue Jays game two weeks ago with his wife.
Partridge said they were not actively screened for COVID-19 symptoms at the gate and that a significant number of people weren’t wearing masks.
He was also concerned about the lack of social distancing in his seats, though a
Dedicated Blue Jays game day staff are trained to ensure fans are following health and safety protocols.
“The Toronto Blue Jays worked closely with all levels of public health to ensure the Rogers Centre reopening plan provides a safe ballpark experience for Blue Jays fans, staff and players,” according to a spokesperson.
Other measures include digital game tickets that include details for contact tracing purposes and a Know Before You Go email sent to every attendee 24 hours before the game.
Partridge added that in many areas indoors at Rogers Centre, people weren’t maintaining proper social distance. He was also concerned that fans were being encouraged to shout and cheer when it’s known the virus can be transmitted more easily that way.
“I don’t think I’d be back this year if there really isn’t going to be real screening, an attempt at social distancing and wearing masks,” said Partridge, who lives in Whitby.
He said he’d also return if a policy requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test had to be submitted in order to attend — something MLSE announced Tuesday it intends to do, beginning in September.
The rule will apply to MLSE employees, event staff and guests who want to gain access to MLSE arenas, stadiums and restaurants.
“We believe these health and safety protocols are the key to allowing our communities and businesses to reopen safely, to permit full capacity events and to protect against further lockdowns,” MLSE said in a statement.
Others have also expressed their discomfort with the rules currently in place at the Rogers Centre and a perceived lack of enforcement and lack of fairness — restaurants must continue to ensure groups of customers stay two metres apart.
Or they’ve pointed out the disconnect between keeping people socially distanced in some venues and not others.
“If you’re just going to pack the bottom level of the Rogers Centre with a few masks and no social distancing, why not just go full capacity?” asked Bill Neale, head baseball coach at the Kansas Wesleyan, commenting on Twitter.
Toronto Public Health points out that under the current regulations, people attending outdoor events don’t have to remain physically distanced from one another.
While there have been no exposures or outbreaks linked to Blue Jays games at the Rogers Centre, TPH has received complaints related to Blue Jays games, which have been forwarded to enforcement and the Rogers Centre to ensure compliance.
“If there is a high risk exposure of a COVID-19 case linked to Blue Jays game, TPH will work closely with Rogers Centre to contact attendees to provide further instructions for testing and self-monitoring or isolation,” TPH said in a statement.
In response to questions put to the Ontario Ministry of Health by the Star, the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries responded with this statement:
“The chief medical officer of health and health experts will continue to review data and provide advice to the government on the appropriate and effective measures that are needed to protect the health of Ontarians.”
Complaints also arose over the weekend about the Arkells concert at the Budweiser Stage at Ontario Place.
A user on Reddit, beem88, said he was at the show and was disappointed in the crowd’s disregard for staying masked.
“Everyone singing along and dancing, no one distanced because how could they be? Yet, go to a restaurant and you have to wear a mask just to sit at a table outside with no one around and they put plastic dividers up everywhere. It’s completely arbitrary and kind of makes the last year and a half of sacrifices by so many people a joke.”
Francine Kopun is a Toronto-based reporter covering city hall and municipal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: