Due to increasing community transmission of COVID-19 in Simcoe Muskoka, the Medical Officer of Health (MOH) is revising the Letter of Instruction (LOI) to owners, operators, and persons responsible for indoor recreational sports and fitness activities and the LOI to businesses and organizations in the County of Simcoe, the District of Muskoka and the Cities of Orillia and Barrie. The revised letters come into effect 12:01 a.m. November 25 and 26, 2021 respectively.
“Over a matter of weeks, we have seen a dramatic increase in confirmed cases of COVID-19 in workplaces and public settings throughout Simcoe Muskoka, and we must take additional measures to curtail the rising rate of transmission,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, Medical Officer of Health. “A key factor contributing to transmission in businesses and organizations is close contact between individuals, which then leads to spread of the disease easily to individuals within households, particularly if individuals are not fully vaccinated. The updated letters of instruction will help to clarify the steps that businesses, organizations and indoor recreation facilities must take so that we can improve protection in our community and reduce further spread.”
Revisions to the LOI apply to the same businesses and organizations as before, with the addition of indoor playground facilities, any organization or facility that provides indoor programming for children under 12 when programming is occurring and locations where religious services, rites or ceremonies take place. The LOI also provides further instruction on:
- Active screening of members of the public, obtaining contact information and greater instruction on physical distancing for specific businesses and organizations.
- Exemptions to physical distancing as noted in the regulation businesses and organizations including places that require proof of vaccination (POV) or may opt-in for POV.
- Persons with COVID-19 symptoms, or who have been identified as a close contact, or who fail their active screening questions.
Meanwhile, the LOI regarding recreational and sports settings (relating to proof of vaccination requirements) will now be inclusive of all individuals 12 years of age and older who are accessing indoor facilities used for sport and recreational fitness activities, including participants aged 12 to 17 who were previously exempt. This has the potential to greatly reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to and from these individuals, limiting further spread. Several other regions of Ontario have previously implemented a similar requirement.
As of Dec. 8, all owners, operators, and persons responsible for any indoor areas of facilities used for organized sports and recreational fitness activities are to implement and enforce a policy that requires each person 12 years of age and older attending or being involved, in any capacity, in indoor organized sports and/or indoor recreational fitness activities to have identification and proof of having received at least one dose of a Health Canada approved COVID-19 vaccine for any entry. These individuals will require identification and proof of a second dose, or a valid exemption as set out by the province, for entry after Feb. 16, 2022. These amendments are in keeping with the earlier LOI from Oct. 14 that goes into effect Nov. 25 and requires each individual 12 years of age and older on the date of entry, at the point of entry, who attends the indoor area of the facility for the purpose of: coaching, teaching, instructing, officiating at organized sports/recreational fitness or volunteering in any capacity for any purpose is required to provide personal identification; and proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or provide a valid medical exemption each time they enter.
Beginning on Jan. 1, 2022, children will have a 12-week grace period from their twelfth birthday to receive their COVID-19 vaccinations. This allows for a reasonable amount of opportunity for children to complete their vaccination and to accommodate the current recommended eight-week interval between dose 1 and 2. During this time, these individuals will be required to provide identification at the point of entry, but do not need to provide proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The new requirements outlined in both LOIs are in addition to those outlined under the Reopening Ontario Act, 2020, unless specifically exempt by these instructions or by any COVID-19 regulatory requirements, local bylaw or health unit Order that are in force or effect.
A resource package is available to businesses and organizations with COVID-19 cases that includes a checklist of steps to reduce further transmission and sample communications to help inform staff and patrons.
SMDHU reminds residents that the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is through vaccination. It is also essential to follow current public health measures, including staying home when feeling ill, maintaining a physical distance of at least 2 metres from those living outside of your household, wearing a mask indoors and outdoors when physical distancing is not possible, covering your cough, and washing your hands regularly.
To learn more about COVID-19 vaccines and current public health safety measures and requirements, visit smdhu.org/covid19.
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