When Mike Meaney and his colleagues heard Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald talk about sharing tennis rackets and balls last week, they were a little dismayed.
“Maybe they didn’t see the document, maybe they didn’t receive it, maybe they didn’t have a chance to read it,” Meaney said, after offering a little demonstration for The Telegram of safe practices at the Riverdale Tennis Club in St. John’s.
He’s talking about a detailed document put together by coaches, academy owners and managers across Canada to explain how outdoor tennis can be played without risking transmission of COVID-19.
So far, golfing is the only multiplayer outdoor sport allowed under Alert Level 4 in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The main concern with tennis is the use of a common ball. Meaney, technical director of Tennis NL, says that is easily solved.
“To alleviate those issues now, if you and I were playing tennis, I would bring my own can, you would bring your own can. One of us will mark them with a Sharpie, I’ll put my initials on all three balls — MM, MM, MM. Your balls will have nothing on them,” he said. “So, if an MM ball lands on your side, very simply you pick it up with your racket, you don’t touch it with your hand, and just hit it back to me or you kick it or push it with your racket.“
Meaney said there would only be one bathroom available to players, and that would have to be used one at a time.
He said five other provinces — New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia — have all agreed to permit tennis under the restrictions outlined in the joint document.
“Any questions they may have had or any concerns they may have had about how safe tennis could look post-COVID-19, I think we answered them in our well-thought-out document,” he said.
"The more recreational activities for families to do now that are actually safe the better." — Mike Meaney
“We’re hoping that they’ll look at this again and allow some tennis to happen. The more recreational activities for families to do now that are actually safe the better. We want people to get their mental state back, and feeling confident and excited about life again.”
Last week, Fitzgerald was open to changing rules in general.
“There are some things that we will need to stand hard and fast on, but certainly we’re open to reviewing information,” she said.
When asked Monday, she was more specific.
“Certainly we’ve received some information from the tennis association and we are looking at that, and reviewing things as this week progresses,” she said.
Peter Jackson is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering health care for The Telegram