Keeping COVID-19 spread low from the locker room to the classroom in Niagara Region


Published December 7, 2021 at 2:04 pm

Niagara Region Public Health (NRPH) is looking to stop the spread of COVID-19 from the lockers rooms into the classrooms.

With an eye to the fact that school children face the highest risk of the virus, NRPH has issued letters of instruction to all sporting and recreational fitness facilities that have indoor areas where the virus can spread more quickly.

“Over the past six weeks, children have had the highest risk of being infected from COVID-19, and participation in sports and athletics has unfortunately become a significant contributor to those infections,” said Dr. Mustafa Hirji, NRPH Acting Medical Officer of Health.

“When these infections get into schools, classes are closed, children must isolate and fall behind in learning, and parents must stay home to care for them. The narrow, targeted measures we are requiring will keep children safe and in school as we head into the holiday season when infections are likely to surge, and we potentially face the Omicron variant.”

To be certain, NRPH’s letters of instruction are legally-binding documents that insist on the following for sports and rec facilities. The three main strategies are:

  1. Controlling the capacity in the highest risk areas of these facilities (e.g. change rooms) to facilitate physical distance and reduce the spread of infection.
  2. Closing exceptions and loopholes in the current proof of vaccination requirement to use indoor sports and recreational fitness facilities. Operators are now instructed that all persons age 12 and older must have shown proof of vaccination to enter these facilities, unless a person has a valid medical exemption.
  3. Requiring a vaccination policy for employees of these facilities. Given vaccine-eligible patrons must be vaccinated to protect each other and the staff of the facilities, staff should provide the same protection back to patrons.

In the first six weeks of school, HRPH said it didn’t see any outbreaks among children in recreational sports. More recently though, Niagara has experienced six outbreaks linked to sports and athletics, aligning with the lifting of capacity limits for these settings.

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