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Northern health units imposing mandatory vaccination rules for indoor sports facilities

Proof of vaccinations will be required for all sports volunteers and workers aged 12+
Gerry McCrory Countryside Arena. (File)

Medical officers of health in Northern Ontario are clamping down on COVID-19 restrictions. Beginning Oct. 14, all individuals aged 12 and older will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination if they visit indoor sports and recreation facilities.

A news release from Public Health Sudbury and Districts said all seven health units across Northern Ontario, covering all the major cities and towns, have issued instructions to facility operators under the Reopening Ontario Act requiring anyone aged 12 and older who are coaching, officiating or volunteering at indoor organized sports to provide proof of vaccination unless a medical exemption applies.

"Activities related to organized sports have the potential to increase COVID-19 transmission. Specifically, close contact, heavy breathing, long exposure times, crowded indoor spaces, and masks removed during physical activity, all contribute to increased risk of COVID-19 transmission," said the news release. 

PHSD said the intent is to reduce the risk of spreading COVID while maintaining the opportunities for sports. 

Currently, the Province of Ontario requires proof of vaccination for all those 12 and older entering indoor sport and recreational fitness facilities but exempts those under 18 who enter only to participate in an organized sport. As per the provincial guidance, the requirements were not applying to workers or volunteers, including coaches and officials. The medical officers of health across the North are changing that.  

Under the letters sent out this week, the medical officers are instructing facility operators to require those aged 12 and older who coach, officiate, or volunteer at indoor organized sports to show proof of vaccination.

Team members under the age of 18 still do not require vaccinations, said the release.

"Proof of vaccination is not currently required for those aged 12 to 17  who actively participate in organized sports," said the release. 

The health unit said the medical officers will closely watch the situations locally and might adjust the rules as needed, which is within their authority.  

Everyone aged 12 and over is strongly encouraged to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible, said the release. Municipalities, businesses, and organizations across the region are strongly recommended to develop and implement COVID-19 vaccination policies.