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Northern Ontario health units expand vaccination rules for indoor sports facilities

Coaches, officials or volunteers 12 and older must be vaccinated.
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THUNDER BAY — Starting Oct. 14, enhanced requirements for vaccination against COVID-19 will take effect in indoor sports facilities across Northern Ontario.

Facility operators learned Wednesday that they must require anyone aged 12 and older who coaches, officiates or volunteers to provide proof of vaccination or a medical exemption.

The seven medical officers of health across Northern Ontario are implementing the measure jointly.

Currently, the Ontario government requires proof of vaccination for everyone 12 and older who enters indoor sport and recreational fitness facilities, but exempts those under 18 who enter only to take part in an organized sport.

The vaccination requirement does not apply to workers or volunteers, including coaches and officials.

However, in letters sent to facility operators, northern health units instructed that those aged 12 and older who coach, officiate or volunteer must provide proof of vaccination to gain entry.

In a joint news release, the medical officers of health said activities related to organized sports have the potential to increase the transmission of COVID-19.

"Specifically, close contact, heavy breathing, long exposure times, crowded indoor spaces, and the removal of masks during physical activity, all contribute to increased risk," they said.

They noted that many sports teams travel for competition in other parts of Northern Ontario.

"As all seven Northern Ontario public health units are implementing the same requirement, there will be a consistent approach to vaccine requirements to help reduce the risk of spread," the announcement stated.

Although proof of vaccination is not currently required for those aged 12 to 17 who actively participate in organized sports, the medical officers of health said they will continue to monitor the local COVID-19 situation and adjust instructions "as needed."

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