Last week’s announcement of new COVID-19 lockdown rules in Ontario wasn’t a signal that the 2021 RBC Canadian Open won’t be played, but it wasn’t good news either
This year’s Open is to be played June 10-13 at Toronto’s St. George’s Golf and Country Club, the same facility that was to host it last year before it was cancelled due to the pandemic.
The new stay-at-home order was issued in response to rising case counts, hospitalizations and ICU occupancies that are said to have the provincial health care system in a dangerous situation.
The newest provincial lockdown continues until at least Feb. 11, but could very well be extended another 28 days, with health officials expecting tough weeks to carry throughout next month. The City of Toronto, where the Open is to be played in June, could add even more restrictions.
Should the lockdown be extended another 28 days, it would last until well into March and who can say at this point that it won’t go beyond that, especially with new, faster spreading variants discovered in Southern Ontario recently? A doctor on the province’s COVID-19 advisory committee tells CBC here that the new strains could greatly increase the daily case count.
The window for the Canadian Open is beginning to close in January and will continue to do so with every extension of the current lockdown.
As a frame of reference, last year’s Open was to be begin on June 11, but word of its cancellation came on April 16. The situation in Ontario is much more dire than it was a year ago when we were first being introduced to coronavirus.
This time around, the provincial and city governments will have projections about where the pandemic is going much earlier than a year ago, so the decision on whether spectators could be present in June could be made earlier than the middle of April.
As it stands now, outdoor gatherings are limited to five people and the rollout of the vaccine has been slow before news broke last week of a delay in shipments of the Pfizer vaccine over the next four weeks that will slow needles going into the arms of Canadians even more, at least in the short term.
Players must still quarantine for 14 days after crossing the border, even if they don’t have symptoms and provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result to the airline before boarding flights to Canada.
Other sports have had to adjust to the border restrictions. The Toronto Raptors, for example, are playing in Tampa after the government denied an exemption for NBA teams to cross the border without a 14-day quarantine.
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators were granted permission by Ontario to play at their home arenas, but are participating in an all Canadian division necessitated by the border being closed to nonessential travel. The regular season and the first round of the playoffs will be played in Canada.
PGA Tour players, like the Raptors, would have to cross the border and the provincial government would need to grant an exemption on quarantining. It remains to be seen if it is willing to do that in the current COVID climate.
Whatever form the RBC Canadian Open takes, if it takes place at all, it will be based on what happens in the next couple of months of dealing with a virus that has plagued society for a year.