Northern Ontario’s seven Medical Officers of Health have issued instructions to facility operators under the Reopening Ontario Act requiring anyone aged 12 and older coaching, officiating, or volunteering at indoor organized sports to provide proof of vaccination unless a medical exemption applies.
Date Issued: September 29, 2021
Date Effective: October 14, 2021 at 12:01 a.m.
- Letter of Instruction: Owners/Operators of Facilities located in the Thunder Bay District Health Unit Area Where Organized Sports are Played and/or Practiced Indoors
- Media Release: Public Health Officials across Northern Ontario increase COVID-19 protection for all users of indoor sporting facilities
Frequently Asked Questions
A Letter of Instruction is used to make additional requirements not set out in the Reopening Ontario Act (ROA). Requirements within the Letter of Instructions are considered mandatory and legally enforceable under the ROA.
On August 24, 2021, amendments were made to both Step 3 and the Roadmap Exit Step in O.Reg 364/20, under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act (ROA), to require business or organizations to comply with any advice, recommendations and instructions related to COVID-19 vaccination policies that are issued by the Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health or by a medical officer of health after consultation with the OCMOH.
The instructions specified within the Letter of Instruction are being provided pursuant to Section 2(2.1) of Schedule 1 to Ontario Regulation 364/20: Rules for Areas at Step 3 And At The Roadmap Exit made under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020, S.O. 2020, c. 17 (the “Reopening Ontario Act), formerly a regulation made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act and now a continued section 7.0.2 order under the Reopening Ontario Act.
As required by regulation, these instructions are issued following consultation with the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health.
The Letter of Instruction for Owners/Operators of facilities located in the Thunder Bay District Health Unit Area where organized sports are played and/or practiced indoors has been issued by all seven Northern Medical Officers of Health (NMOHs).
Since many local organized sports require travel across Northern Ontario, NMOHs are ensuring a consistent approach to these vaccine requirements to help reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19 and keep our communities safe.
To help understand the additional requirements being imposed by the NMOHs’ Letter of Instruction, let us compare the ROA regulations and the additional requirement from the LOI.
Reopening Ontario Act – Provincial Regulation
Currently, the Province of Ontario requires proof of vaccination (or medical exemption) in indoor sport and recreational fitness facilities for:
- All spectators aged 12 and over, and
- All adult patrons aged 18 and over accessing the facility for any purpose.
Those 12-17 years of age entering solely to actively participate in organized sports are exempt under provincial regulation.
This provincial regulation does not apply to workers, including officials, coaches or volunteers.
Letter of Instruction – Northern Medical Officers of Health
The NMOHs’ LOI requires additional groups to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19, unless a valid medial exemption is provided.
These groups include those age 12 years and older who are officiating, coaching, or volunteering, in facilities where organized sports are played and/or practiced indoors. This is in addition to proof of vaccine requirements for those who are spectating at organized sports.
The northern LOI does not remove or contradict the current provincial exemption for 12-17 year olds who are actively participating in organized sport. At this time, youth aged 12-17 years who are actively participating in organized sports are not required to show proof of vaccination or medical exemption.
We are currently in the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and the highly transmissible Delta variant is the dominant variant in COVID-19 cases. The Ontario’s Science Advisory and Modelling Consensus Tables advise that the Delta Variant is twice as transmissible as the original SARS-CoV-2 virus. Daily COVID-19 case counts in Ontario are substantial, with provincial data showing over 4,357 new cases reported to public health during the period of September 19 to September 25, 2021, with a rate of 29.6 per 100,000 population.
Activities related to organized sports have the potential to enhance COVID-19 transmission. Specifically close contact, forceful exhalation, prolonged exposure, crowded indoor spaces, and masks and face coverings removed during physical activity contribute to enhanced likelihood of COVID-19 transmission.
These risks for enhanced transmission are combined with the risk of increased spread within and between communities given the composition of organized sports teams and their associated travel in northern Ontario and beyond.
NMOHs know the benefits of physical activity and socializing that come with organized sports.
By requiring COVID-19 vaccination among additional populations within facilities where organized sports are played and/or practiced, as specified in the Letter of Instruction, we are helping to keep organized sports running while reducing the risk of COVID-19 for those participating and curbing the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.
The Letter of Instruction applies to owners/operators of facilities located the Thunder Bay District Health Unit area where organized sports are played and/or practiced inside.
Effective 12:01 a.m. on October 14, 2021, and until further notice unless otherwise specified, the Medical Officer of Health is instructing all persons responsible for Facilities where organized sports are played and/or practiced indoors to:
- Require each person, age 12 years and older, at the point of entry, who attends the indoor area of the Facility for the purpose of (a) coaching, officiating at organized sports or volunteering, or (b) spectating at organized sports, to provide identification and proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or a valid medical exemption.
- Comply with all other requirements under the Reopening Ontario Act and its regulations that apply to the Facility.
- “Facility” means a facility located in the Thunder Bay District Health Unit area where organized sports are played and/or practiced.
- “Fully Vaccinated” is as defined within Section 2.1(5) of Schedule 1 to Ontario Regulation 364/20: Rules for Areas at Step 3 And At The Roadmap Exit Step made under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020, S.O.2020, c. 17 (the “Reopening Ontario Act”).
- Medical Exemption (Ministry Guidance) requires the patron to provide a written document, completed and supplied by a physician (designated as “MD”) or by a registered nurse in the extended class (designated as “Registered Nurse (Extended Class)”, “RN(EC)”, “Nurse Practitioner” or “NP”) stating that (a) the individual is exempt for a medical reason from being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and (b) the effective time-period for the medical reason.
- “Organized Sport(s)” means sport(s) and recreation including, but not limited to, sports leagues, organized pick-up sports, dance classes, gymnastics, martial arts and swimming classes, or as otherwise described in the Ministry of Health’s Proof of Vaccination Guidance for Businesses and Organizations under the Reopening Ontario Act. Ministry of Health Proof of Vaccination Guidance.
- “Owner/Operator” means an owner/operator of a facility located in the Thunder Bay District Health Unit area where organized sports are played and/or practiced.
Individuals aged 12-17 years who are actively participating in an organized sport in the indoor area of a facility. A facility means a facility located in the Thunder Bay District Health Unit area where organized sports are played and/or practiced.
At this time, the LOI does not apply to school-related organized sports. Indoor organized sports associated with schools will continue to follow provincial school guidance, and the schools’ own internal policies.
Northern Ontario health units will continue to monitor the local COVID-19 situation and adjust as needed.
It is strongly encouraged that anyone aged 12 and older is vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible.
- Owners/operators of a facility in the Thunder Bay District Health Unit area where organized sports are played and/or practiced are required to comply with the additional measures in the LOI, pursuant to regulations under the Reopening Ontario Act including any successor legislation or regulations. As per the Reopening Ontario Act, individuals who do not comply with the above noted requirements may be liable for a fine up to a maximum of $100,000 or in the case of a corporation, not more than $10,000,000 for each day or part of each day on which the offence occurs or continues.
- Persons are required to ensure that any information provided to the owners/operators to satisfy a requirement of the LOI under Ontario Regulation 364/20, including to demonstrate proof of vaccination (or entitlement to an exemption) or proof of identification, is complete and accurate. Except for limited circumstances set out in the LOI under Ontario Regulation 364/20, persons are prohibited from entering the premises of facilities where organized sports are played and/or practiced without providing such information.
- Individuals who have any trouble with patrons could, if the situation permits, inform the patron of the requirements of the LOI under Ontario Regulation 364/20 and advise that they are unable to enter the premise without proof of full vaccination or medical exemption and identification.
- Should an individual persist entry without meeting requirements, or if a situation escalates, law enforcement, such as local police, can be contacted. In an emergency, if a situation becomes unsafe, call 9-1-1.
Workplace or Business Regulation Questions
- Stop the Spread Business Information Line (For All Businesses): 1-888-444-3659.
- Questions can be submitted directly to the Ministry of Health via their Contact Us page.
Thunder Bay District Health Unit Workplace Resources
- Visit our website: COVID-19 and the Workplace.
- Sign-up for the TBDHU Wellness@Work newsletter.
- COVID-19 Information Line: (807) 625-5900 or Toll-Free at 1-866-892-0172.
Guidance Documents to Support Businesses and Organizations with Proof of Vaccination
- Proof of Vaccination Guidance for Businesses and Organizations under the Reopening Ontario Act
- Proof of Vaccination Questions and Answers for Businesses and Organizations