Canadian health official says Blue Jays trending toward return to playing MLB games in Canada

OTTAWA -- The Toronto Blue Jays' return to their home ballpark is "trending in a very good direction," Canada's deputy chief public health officer said Thursday.

The Blue Jays have played their home games this season in Dunedin, Florida, and Buffalo, New York, because the U.S.-Canada border remains closed to nonessential travel. Toronto also played all its home games in Buffalo last season.

Major League Baseball needs an exemption for games to be played in Canada because not all players and team staff have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

The team has applied for an exemption, and the health official, Dr. Howard Njoo, said there has been "a lot of good back-and-forth" between the Blue Jays and the government over the application.

But Njoo, speaking in a virtual news conference, would not say when an announcement would be made about the Blue Jays' return to Rogers Centre.

"We're looking at, I would say, last details," Njoo said. "But at this point I would say there aren't any showstoppers or anything that we really can't continue to discuss and move forward on.

"So I can't give you a date in terms of when a possible decision would be made for the NIE or national interest exemption, but I would say that in terms of the discussions from a public health perspective, they've been going very well."

A team spokesperson said the club continues to work with the federal government toward a July 30 return. The Blue Jays open a three-game series against Kansas City on that date. The venue is listed as "TBD" on the Major League Baseball website.

If the Blue Jays are not given an exemption for the 10-game homestand July 30, the next homestand begins Aug. 20.