The goal is to get games going without stoppages of play.
That is according to a joint proof of Covid-19 vaccine announcement made Oct. 6 by three regional health units.
The medical officers of health for Middlesex-London, Southwestern and Huron Perth said they made the expanded policy together to encourage regional travel that allows tournament play with neighbouring communities.
“We know sports are good for our physical health and our mental health,” said Dr. Joyce Locke of Southwestern Public Health.
The need for proof of vaccination will apply starting Oct. 31 to all players, coaches, volunteers and spectators over the age of 12 at indoor recreation facilities who do not have a medical exemption. This could affect recreation and spectator plans for tens of thousands of people according to Dr. Chris Mackie, medical officer of health for Middlesex-London Health Unit.
The order will not apply to schools, where boards can make their own rules. The health officers said more steps around school sports can be taken if cases climb.
“The main rationale will not be a surprise to anyone,” said Dr. Mackie.
Reasons listed for expanded measures include close contact, heavy breathing and increased respiratory rate, prolonged exposure, crowded indoor spaces and the removal of masks during physical activity. More play indoors as the seasons change was why there was a need for policy now, according to the medical officers.
“It doesn’t take much to get to the player, the family, and other social circles we engage in,” said Dr. Locke.
A slide was shown during the announcement showing an example from Peel where two Covid-infected hockey players at a tournament in August spread the virus to eight other players, who spread it again to their households.
“This is Canada, most of the outbreaks have been associated with hockey” said Dr. Mackie of sports related spread.
The hope is that with a promised smart phone app and provincial assistance, this directive will not be a big burden for spectators at facilities.
“It’s a bit of work … but a small job to keep the teams active,” said Dr. Locke.
Penalties for not following the health order range from $750-$100,000 for individuals and $1,000-$500,000 for corporations. Jail time is also a possibility, but the medical officers do not foresee it getting to that point.
“It’s not about penalties, it’s about ensuring we have as normal as possible a recreation season this winter,” said Dr. Locke.
Dr. Mackie said most will be prepared for the order, with over 85 percent having the first dose and over 80 percent with the second.
Chris Gareau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Middlesex Banner