Local health units tighten COVID-19 rules for recreation facilities

Three local health units have announced that proof of COVID-19 vaccination will now be required for anyone over the age of 12 who enters an indoor area of a sports or recreational fitness facility to participate in, coach, officiate, or watch organized sport

In a video call held Wednesday, top officials from Middlesex-London, Southwestern Public Health (which covers Elgin and Oxford counties) and Huron-Perth announced the decision, effective Oct. 31.

“These additional protective measures will make it safer for everyone entering a facility for organized sports, whether to play, practice, coach, volunteer, or watch,” says Dr. Miriam Klassen, Medical Officer of Health, Huron Perth Public Health.

According to a joint statement issued by the three health units, the decision to extend the proof of vaccination requirement to all those attending these facilities and to a younger age group involved in organized sport was made due to the nature of sport and fitness activities, which can create opportunities for COVID-19 to spread more easily.

The statement goes on to say, these factors include; close contact between participants, forceful exhalation and increased respiratory rate, prolonged exposure, crowded indoor spaces and the removal of masks/face coverings during physical activity.

It was also made in part because everyone 12 years of age and older is currently eligible to receive the vaccine.

Letters of Instruction will be issued to the owners and operators of facilities in the communities they serve, where organized sports are played or practised.

In addition to players, the provisions of the Letters of Instruction apply to coaches, officials, volunteers and spectators aged 12 and over.

Health units in Windsor-Essex and York Region have also announced similar plans that go above and beyond provincial guidelines.