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STINSON: Raptors and NBA stuck with Florida for now – Toronto Sun



Masai Ujiri said all the things you would expect him to say as the Toronto Raptors and the National Basketball Association sputter back to life and try to finish their seasons amid a pandemic.

“Everyone is geared up to play and excited,” the Raptors president said on Monday.

He said the NBA was “a seriously well-oiled machine” and that the COVID-19 protocols and guidance the league has put in place allows for a safe environment for its employees.

Ujiri said he didn’t have to convince any of the Raptors that taking part in a restarted season was a good idea.

But, on Ujiri’s media conference call, there were also a couple of reading-between-the-lines moments. The Raptors are presently based in Fort Myers, Fla., where they are in the middle of a miniature training camp before joining 21 other teams at the Walt Disney World campus in Orlando.

This feels a little like trying to avoid a sunburn by taking a nap outdoors on a foil blanket. Florida is dealing with giant increases in confirmed coronavirus cases, with more than 5,000 added to the count Monday, the fifth time in the past six days that new cases cracked that mark. Canada surpassed 2,000 daily new cases just once over the whole of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, more than 13% of reported results in Florida on Monday came back positive, which suggests the new-case numbers are not about to decline. (Canada’s positive rate now is less than 1%.) Florida has now forbid the sale of alcohol in bars and restaurants in an attempt to quell the rising COVID-19 caseload.

Asked about spending all that time in Florida, Ujiri said “you have to make plans” and “you have to set things in motion.” He didn’t come out and say that he wished things had unfolded differently, but it was an acknowledgment that as the NBA, and the Raptors in particular, dealt with the complicated process of returning in a coronavirus world, they had to make decisions weeks ago, which gave the virus plenty of time to do its own thing. And it has.

Lee County, which includes Fort Myers, hasn’t been hit as hard as Miami, or even as hard as Orlando, but there was still an alarming 24% positive rate on test results reported on Monday. Ujiri said the Raptors players and staff are staying at a hotel that was specifically reopened for them, and that everyone is going back to their rooms after practice. Good call, that.

But as confident as the NBA and the Raptors might be in their protocols, there is no point in pretending like they were ever planning to head straight into a coronavirus hot spot. In mid-April, seven lifetimes ago, NBA commissioner Adam Silver was asked what kind of information the league would consider as it decided how to resume its business. The first thing he said: “I think we’re looking for the number of new infections to come down.” That isn’t true of the United States as a whole, and it certainly isn’t of Florida, even allowing for significantly increased levels of testing.

Silver acknowledged as much Friday, saying COVID-19 “is on the rise in the majority of states in the United States right now, and my ultimate conclusion is that we can’t outrun the virus and that this is what we’re going to be living with for the foreseeable future.”

Essentially, the league is falling back on its bubble strategy, hoping that even if the spread of the virus accelerates in Florida, they can keep it from significantly affecting their operations at Disney. “We are in essence protected from cases around us,” Silver said. “At least, that’s the model.” Best-laid plans, et cetera.

It is worth noting at this point that the NBA, like the NHL and its two-city plan, are too far into the race to change horses. Do they want to resume their seasons because there is a lot of money at stake? Of course they do.

But these have been big-money businesses for many decades. We are long past the point when organized sports meant getting a few local fellows with glorious facial hair together to battle for the honour of their hometown.

And with the salary pool in basketball and hockey tied specifically to the amount of money those leagues bring in, the players have a big stake in ensuring that those revenues don’t completely crater this season. They want this to work, too.
But will it? Ujiri, at least, is hopeful. He said the Raptors are all following the rules, wearing masks outside their rooms, being careful.

So much, though, remains uncertain. If a player tests positive, he will be quarantined and all his contacts would be immediately re-tested. While a team could deal with a single result like any other injury, a team-wide outbreak would be something else — as would be multiple outbreaks.

No one really wants to deal with what that would mean, yet.

“I think we just want to get down on the ground and start to see how our testing is working and how the protocols are working and then we’ll make decisions as we go,” Silver said.

The commissioner said they have not identified a tipping point at which the season would have to be shuttered, and it’s a safe bet one will not be publicly revealed. The NBA doesn’t want to put down a line that it might have to step past a month from now.

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'Huge bummer': July Fourth will test Americans' discipline – CTV News



The U.S. headed into the Fourth of July weekend with many parades and fireworks displays cancelled, beaches and bars closed, and health authorities warning that this will be a crucial test of Americans’ self-control that could determine the trajectory of the surging coronavirus outbreak.

With confirmed cases climbing in 40 states, governors and local officials have ordered the wearing of masks in public, and families were urged to celebrate their independence at home. Even then, they were told to keep their backyard cookouts small.

“This year is a huge bummer, to say the least,” said Ashley Peters, who for 14 years has hosted 150 friends and relatives at a pool party at her home in Manteca, California, complete with a DJ, bounce house, water slide and shaved-ice stand. This time, the guest list is down to just a few people.

Pulling the plug on the bash, she said, was a “no-brainer” because so many of those she knows are front-line workers, including her husband, a fire captain. “I woke up and told my husband I wish it was just July 5,” she said.

Health experts agree this will be a pivotal moment in determining whether the nation slides into a deeper mess. The fear is that a weekend of crowded pool parties, picnics and parades will fuel the surge.

“We’re not going to be arresting people for having gatherings, but we’re certainly going to discourage it,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, public health director for Seattle and King County.

Those who decide they must gather with a small group of family members need to be careful, he said: “Don’t share utensils, don’t share objects, don’t pass them back and forth, because you’re passing that virus around as well.”

The warnings were sounded after a Memorial Day weekend that saw many people emerge from stay-at-home orders to go to the beach, restaurants and family gatherings. Since then, confirmed infections per day in the U.S. have rocketed to an all-time high, more than doubling.

The U.S. set another record on Friday with 52,300 newly reported cases, according to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

The picture was bleak around much of the country. In Arizona, the number of people in the hospital with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 eclipsed 3,000 for the first time. Alabama reported more than 1,700 new confirmed cases, its highest single-day count yet. New York state, which has largely tamed the virus, recorded 918 new cases, the most in at least three weeks.

Despite it all, there will still be fireworks and community events scattered across the nation, with many taking social distancing into account. In Ohio, Upper Arlington’s July Fourth parade will take a much longer route through its neighbourhoods so residents can watch without crowding the streets.

“We’re calling it the front porch parade,” said organizer Sam Porter. “We can’t just not do something.”

Fireworks will be launched from four spots across Albuquerque, New Mexico, so that people can ooh and aah from home instead of gathering in a single place.

Willie Nelson’s annual Fourth of July Picnic will carry on at his Texas ranch outside Austin, but this year the concert portion will be virtual.

President Donald Trump travelled to South Dakota on Friday for a fireworks show at Mount Rushmore before returning to the nation’s capital for military flyovers Saturday and a mile-long pyrotechnics display on the National Mall that his administration promises will be the biggest in recent memory. Up to 300,000 face masks will be given away but not required.

The big party will go on over objections from Washington’s mayor.

“Ask yourself, do you need to be there? Ask yourself, can you anticipate or know who all is going to be around you? If you go downtown, do you know if you’re going to be able to social distance?” Mayor Muriel Bowser said.

Beaches that had been open for the traditional start of summer over Memorial Day weekend will be off-limits in many places this time, including South Florida, Southern California and the Texas Gulf Coast.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised Americans who do go to the beach to wear face coverings, though not in the water.

With professional pyrotechnic displays cancelled, authorities are bracing for wildfires and injuries caused by Americans shooting off fireworks at home. Sales of fireworks have been booming in what some sellers say may reflect a desire for a little excitement among people cooped up for so long.

Jamie Parrott, a pediatric neurologist in Columbia, South Carolina, said he intends to stay home with his grandchildren, setting off fireworks and eating hamburgers, because that’s the safer course for older people like him.

“We’ll muddle through,” he said.

Delaware’s governor ordered bars in some beach towns to close, saying people were getting complacent about masks and social distancing. The Lake Erie resort village of Put-in-Bay in Ohio cancelled its fireworks after a small number of coronavirus cases were linked to bars on the island. And the New Jersey resort town of Wildwood did the same.

Still, many people are expected to pack the beaches, boardwalk restaurants and amusement parks up and down the Jersey shore.

South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach is one of the nation’s worst hot spots for COVID-19, and officials in several other states blame their outbreaks on vacationers returning from the resort city. On Thursday, the city passed a mask requirement.

“I hate the perception that people have right now, as any city would,” said Mayor Brenda Bethune.

After hearing Michigan’s governor warn about the need to be smart amid an uptick of cases, Mary Halley of Jonesville said her family cancelled plans for a weekend outing on Lake Michigan.

“We had some disappointed kids, but we knew as a family we couldn’t do that,” she said. The problem, she said, is that too many people aren’t listening to the experts. “Even in my small, little town, there are lot of people who didn’t comply with the orders,” she said.

Dr. Don Williamson, head of the Alabama Hospital Association, said he is “really, really worried about the Fourth of July.”

“I think that will likely determine the trend for Alabama for the rest of the summer,” he said.


Associated Press reporters from around the world contributed to this report.

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MLB announces 38 positive tests – TSN



NEW YORK — Thirty-one Major League Baseball players and seven staff members tested positive for COVID-19 during intake for the resumption of training, a rate of 1.2 per cent.

MLB and the players’ association announced the results Friday as teams resumed workouts for the first time since the coronavirus interrupted spring training March 12, two weeks before the season was to start. Opening day has been reset for July 23, the latest in baseball history, and the regular season has been reduced to 60 games in the shortest schedule since 1878.

The positive tests occurred among 19 of the 30 teams, according to results of the samples sent to the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory in South Jordan, Utah. There were 3,185 samples collected and tested through the first week of intake testing.

Individual players who test positive are not identified by MLB or the union. Cleveland outfielder Delino DeShields Jr. gave the Indians permission to say he tested positive.

“I think he’s getting frustrated because he’s starting to feel better and he wants to get back here,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He seems to be feeling much better, which is good news. There’s just the protocols that you have to follow and he’s going to have to do that, and he understands that.”

MLB and the union established a COVID-19 pandemic related injured list with no specific minimum days. There are three reasons specified for placement on that IL: a positive test, exposure to coronavirus or symptoms that require isolation or additional assessment.

Philadelphia put infielder Scott Kingery and pitchers Hector Neris, Ranger Suarez and Tommy Hunter on the 10-day IL with no specified injuries Thursday. The Phillies had seven players test positive for COVID-19 last month, but manager Joe Girardi couldn’t answer whether any of the players were among them because of medical privacy.

New Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke said on a Boston call there have been “some positive tests” but didn’t give any names.

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Blue Jays hosting regular season in Toronto ‘totally different ball game’ –



The Toronto Blue Jays have been cleared to start their summer training camp at Rogers Centre, but Canada’s deputy chief public health officer says hosting other teams there during the regular season would be a “totally different ball game.”

The Blue Jays, the lone MLB team north of the Canada-U.S. border, received permission from the Canadian government Thursday to use their Toronto stadium during the COVID-19 pandemic for training purposes.

A decision has yet to be made on whether Rogers Centre can host games during the regular season, which would involve constant travel between the border.

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said Friday that plan carries risk.

“Certainly we’d have to look very carefully at what proposal would be put forward by Major League Baseball and also the Blue Jays specifically, if they were to entertain the idea of home games and what that would mean for teams coming in,” Njoo said. “What types of precautions or preventative measures would be put in place for those players in their home cities?

“A lot of states have at the present time quite a high level of activity of COVID-19. … I think it’s a matter of looking very carefully at the plan that would be proposed with respect to the regular season and taking it from there.”

Training camps were set to begin around the league on Friday, but the Blue Jays are slightly delayed as their players and staff undergo the intake and screening process at their spring training stadium in Dunedin, Fla.

Team President and CEO Mark Shapiro said Thursday that two negative COVID tests will be required before anyone can board a private charter to Toronto, which he expects to happen this weekend.

Unlike the NHL and NBA, which are planning to play in either hub cities or one large complex once their seasons resume, MLB teams will be travelling for road games against division rivals and teams in the corresponding division of their opposite league.

That would mean Toronto would travel to New York, Boston, Baltimore, Tampa Bay, Miami, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. And teams from those cities would come into Canada on multiple occasions as well.

“Our priority is really safe-guarding the health and safety of all Canadians,” Njoo said. “Certainly there’s lots of aspects we have to look at, not just in terms of the Blue Jays but what the risk would be in terms of themselves travelling back and forth, if they were to entertain having home games at Rogers Centre in Toronto, as well as for visiting teams crossing our border.

“The Blue Jays are the only non-American team, the only Canadian team in Major League Baseball and I think that needs to be part of the thinking for all of Major League Baseball in terms of how they might actually want to move forward (with) plans for the regular season.”

The abbreviated 60-game regular season is slated to start July 23 or 24 and last 66 days.

Several Blue Jays players and staff tested positive for COVID-19 recently and the team had to close its spring training facility earlier this month after one player showed symptoms of the virus.

Florida reported a record-high 10,109 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday while Ontario’s new case total for the same day was 153.

Because anyone entering Canada for nonessential purposes needs to self-isolate for 14 days, MLB needed a letter of exemption from the federal government to allow for a “modified quarantine.”

Toronto’s players and staff are to self-isolate in the hotel attached to the stadium when not on the field.

Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said that modified quarantine model will lower the risk of players or staff spreading COVID-19 in Toronto.

“Yes, absolutely the idea is that any players coming in, in let’s say a cohort or bubble quarantine situation, has strict protocols to mitigate risk and not to interact or spread illness to the surrounding community,” she said.

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