Northern health units make vaccination mandatory for anyone accessing indoor sporting facilities

Proof of vaccination will be required from ‘all those who support organized sport’ starting Oct. 14

Fans look on during OHL exhibition action featuring the Sudbury Wolves and the Peterborough Petes at the Sudbury Community Arena in Sudbury, Ont. on Friday September 17, 2021. Health units in Northern Ontario have expanded proof of vaccination requirements for those attending indoor sports. John Lappa/Sudbury Star

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Proof of vaccination will be required for anyone accessing indoor sporting facilities in Northern Ontario effective Oct. 14.

Northern Ontario’s seven medical officers of health issued a joint statement on Wednesday stating they have issued instructions to facility operators under the Reopening Ontario Act.

The new rule requires anyone aged 12 and older who is coaching, officiating, or volunteering at indoor organized sports venues to provide proof of vaccination unless a medical exemption applies.

“Activities related to organized sports have the potential to increase COVID-19 transmission,” said the statement.

“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.

“Requiring more groups to be protected with COVID-19 vaccinations will help reduce this risk while maintaining opportunities for sport.”

The provincial government currently requires proof of vaccination for all those aged 12 and older entering indoor sport and recreational facilities, but exempts those under 18 who enter only to participate in an organized sport.

The requirements do not apply to workers or volunteers, including coaches and officials.

Under the instructions sent to facility operators on Wednesday, all those who support organized sport will be required to show proof of vaccination.

“Northern Ontario Medical Officers of Health advise that we are currently in the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the highly transmissible Delta variant the dominant strain causing COVID-19 cases,” said the statement.

“The benefits of physical activity and socializing are critical to residents’ well-being.”

Additionally, many local organized sports groups and teams participate in travel across Northern Ontario.

“As all seven Northern Ontario public health units are implementing the same requirements, there will be a consistent approach to vaccine requirements to help reduce the risk of spread and keep communities safe,” said the statement.

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

“However, the Northern Ontario Medical Officers of Health will continue to monitor the local COVID-19 situation and adjust instructions as needed,” said the statement.

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

Public Health Sudbury and Districts’ Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Algoma Public Health Unit’s Dr. Jennifer Loo, and Norther Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit’s Dr. Jim Chirico are among those who signed the letter.

For more information, contact Public Health Sudbury and Districts at 705-522-9200.

Twitter: @SudburyStar