JIGGENS: American re-opening a big tease for Ontarians in lockdown

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One of the problems with being locked down in Ontario is that there are few options for recreation and enjoyment outside of our doors. We’re being told to stay home as much as possible, but, now that temperatures are starting to reach 20 degrees or more on a consistent basis, we’re itching to get outside and spend some time in the sun.

Leaving the house once a week to buy groceries doesn’t really cut it as outdoor fun. Although I personally go for twice daily walks as a means of getting some semblance of exercise and a chance to breathe in something other than stale indoor air, I’m seeing the same old scenery day in and day out. It’s getting a little tiresome.

I take solace in being able to watch televised sports, whether it’s hockey, baseball or golf. But this is where things get very surreal. Watch a hockey game involving North Division teams – that is, the NHL’s seven Canadian-based teams – and what do you see when the camera pans out for wide shots? You may see a smattering of cardboard cutout fans in some seats in an otherwise empty building, and you’ll also hear canned crowd noises that are cued up whenever a goal is scored, a great save is made, or a bone-crushing bodycheck is delivered.

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But flip to another channel in which two U.S.-based teams are playing, and you’ll see and hear crowds of 4,000 to 5,000 people in the stands. Most U.S. rinks are allowing about 25 per cent capacity on their premises, and that number is expected to reach 100 per cent in some places by next month as the COVID-19 vaccination rate continues to rise. Watch a Major League Baseball game and it’s the same thing. And the crowds at recent PGA Tour events look about the same as they were prior to the pandemic, complete with a large percentage of spectators moving about without any type of face covering.

What we’re seeing on either side of the border is like night and day. Do they know something south of us that we don’t? Here in Canada, we’re forbidden to attend live sporting events, nor can we enjoy half the things we used to. It wasn’t all that long ago that the United States was dealing with the world’s highest rate of positive COVID cases. Now, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are telling Americans who are fully vaccinated that they can go about their daily routine mask-less and can pretty much do as they please.

To me, this seems a little reckless and ill-advised. The political powers that be in Canada are nowhere near close to making such an announcement. The loosening of restrictions south of the border has also resulted in a heightened cry for Canada to reopen our shared international border.

Canada in general – and Ontario in particular – is perhaps a little bit too lockdown-happy. For example, there’s no need to keep many outdoor recreational facilities closed.

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Our elected officials aren’t listening to the sound medical advice they’re being given by such organizations as the Ontario Medical Association, which suggests the risk of spread in outdoor settings is low while the physical and mental health benefits are high.

Canadians are paying close attention to what’s going on south of us, wondering if such things as reopening the floodgates to live sporting events could perhaps trigger another wave. It’s best to take a wait-and-see approach before reopening the border anytime soon.

While it’s nice to see fans in the seats again at NHL arenas and MLB ballparks – leading us to believe that things are on their way back to normal – what’s happening in the U.S. is just way out of synch with what’s going on in Canada at this time, and presents itself as nothing more than a tease.

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