Message from Algoma Public Health concerning sports, recreation, and gymnasium facilities (including arenas)

Message from Nicole Lindahl, BHSc., CPHI(C). Algoma Public Health

Recently there has been a large increase in clusters and outbreaks of COVID-19 in Ontario relating to sports, recreation, and gymnasium facilities (including arenas).  One notable instance can be seen at a spinclub in Hamilton.  The original case felt well enough to attend a spin class, however, infectious droplets coupled with heavy breathing in an enclosed area lead to 48 more infections, which then led to COVID-19 infections in other households, workplaces, and institutions.  This is not an isolated incident, and has provided Pubic Health agencies across Ontario with reason to limit recreational activities occurring in communal settings.  As we know, some regions have been brought back into “Modified Stage 2” legislation,  while other regions have created instructions under O. Reg. 364/20: RULES FOR AREAS IN STAGE 3 or issued Section 22 Orders under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.  Some of the instructions/orders that have been put into place (editor note: these are NOT guidelines implemented in the Algoma Region at this time, see below) include provisions such as:

  • Limiting class sizes to 10 or less people dependent on space, or entirely suspending in person fitness classes
  • Requiring use of source control masking for instructors
  • Not permitting singing along or yelling
  • Requiring that all persons in sports and recreation facilities maintain physical distancing of at least 2m (and in some cases, 3m distance).
  • The operator must ensure that the building heating, venting and air conditioning (HVAC) system are well maintained in line with the Guidance for facilities for sports and recreational fitness activities during COVID-19
  • Limit all team sports to training only, where physical distancing of 2m can be maintained

In Algoma region, we HAVE NOT issued such instructions or orders at this time, however we are actively monitoring the situation throughout Ontario, as well as in our own district in order to ensure that we are able to act in a preventative manner. Things are rapidly changing, and I will do my best to keep you aware of updates to the legislation as it applies to your facilities. With that being said, I would like to pass along some important information regarding the operation of sports, recreational, and gymnasium facilities, and for the leagues/users who avail:

  1. All those using the facility must either be actively or passively screened before being permitted entry. Symptomatic people are not to enter the facility (and remain in isolation) until they are 24 hours symptom free with a negative test, or at 10 days with no test, and symptoms have resolved for 24 hours. This guidance applies each time someone becomes symptomatic (ie one negative test is not good for the season!)
  2. Ensure that dates, names and phone numbers of participants is kept for 30 days. This information will be requested by Algoma Public Health in the instance that someone with COVID-19 partook in activities at your facility during their “infectious period” (which is 48 hours before symptom onset, and while symptomatic). Our public health nurses will take this information and do all contact tracing, this is not the responsibility of the facility.
  3. Leagues are limited to 50 people ALL SEASON. Leagues are not to play against other teams outside of their league (ie in tournaments, bonspeils, etc).
  4. Travel to play against other teams is not recommended, particularly outside the district. Our local and chief Medical Officers of Health are advising that trips outside the home are limited to essential purposes only.
  5. Facilities that have “free play” for non-team sports, ie public skating, gyms, etc should be monitored in order to ensure that physical distancing is occurring at all times. If these facilities are not monitored (although it is recommended they are, at this time), then they should be considered as such and limited to what the regulation currently stipulates (10 indoors, 25 outdoors, as long as those numbers allow for physical distancing based on the space). Team sports are not currently being advised to distance due to the limited league size of 50 persons (this may change). They are being advised to alter play to prevent physical contact.
  6. Ensure that the most recent copy of Guidance for facilities for sports and recreational fitness activities during COVID-19 has been reviewed and implemented by your facility managers/contacts. This guidance should be implemented as soon as possible, including the content on screening and PPE use.

Some other, important rules of thumb to remember when planning or implementing programs at rec facilities:

  1. Environmental cleaning and disinfection should be maintained (2x daily for high touch surfaces), but does NOT replace the importance of hand hygiene. Regular and proper hand hygiene is the number one way to prevent the spread of infectious disease (generally, such as nororvirus).
  2. Evidence tells us that the number one mode of transmission of COVID-19 is person-to-person droplet spread. This re-enforces the fact that physical distancing of at least 2m, coupled with wearing a source control mask greatly mitigates the spread of COVID-19.

Information on HVAC Systems:

We wanted to share an observation from other health units that have managed larger COVID-19 outbreaks within their local institutions.  Upon further investigation into one large outbreak, it was noted that there were deficiencies with the facilities HVAC system and proper air circulation / air exchanges were not being met.  As per guidance from Public Health Ontario –

Enhancing outdoor air ventilation and good maintenance of HVAC systems will complement other public health measures to reduce COVID-19 transmission, e.g., screening, self-isolation when sick, physical distancing, hand hygiene, respiratory source control, environmental cleaning and disinfection.

As we prepare for the upcoming cold/flu/outbreak season, we encourage you all to ensure that your respective HVAC systems are serviced by qualified individual(s) and maintained in good working order.

Public Health Ontario had released information about the role of HVAC systems in August (please see link below) which may be of interest.

Nicole Lindahl BHSc., CPHI(C)

Algoma Public Health | 294 Willow Ave. | Sault Ste. Marie, ON | P6B 0A9

‘ 705-942-4646 ext.3541 | 7 705-541-7346