Newmarket retaining grace period before enforcing youth COVID-19 vaccination mandate Nov. 1
Elsewhere in York Region, ages 12 to 17 must be fully vaccinated as of today, Oct. 1, to take part in indoor youth sports
Oct. 4, 2021
The Town of Newmarket is sticking with its Nov. 1 timeline requiring youth to be COVID-19 vaccinated to access municipal facilities, despite an instruction from York Region's public health unit.
As of today, Oct. 1, the letter of instruction requires all indoor sports facilities to confirm if people 12 and older are vaccinated, including those playing and watching organized sports. The local requirement overrides an exemption in the provincial vaccine verification system, where individuals aged 12 to 17 participating in organized sports do not have to prove vaccination.
Newmarket supports the region's requirement and had already decided to take a similar approach, but it will honour the grace period up to Nov. 1 before it will begin enforcing youth to be fully vaccinated to access facilities, according to a news release.
“To ensure that users have time to comply with the new guidelines, the town will take an education-first approach until Nov. 1, 2021,” the municipality said. “York Region will spend the next several weeks focused on communication and education related to this letter of instruction, with escalated measures, including enforcement, to follow.”
The York Region letter of instruction, which also applies to private facilities, is enforceable under the Reopening Ontario Act and can result in fines of up to $100,000 for individuals or $10,000,000 for corporations for each day of violation.
The municipalities have justified the decision by noting the COVID-19 transmission that can occur with contact sports.
“Close contact, heavy breathing, long exposure times, crowded indoor spaces, and masks removed during physical activity all contribute to increased risk of COVID-19 transmission,” the town said. “To maintain opportunities for sport, the Town of Newmarket must remain diligent in ensuring the safety of participants.”
Some sports leagues, including the Newmarket Minor Hockey Association and York North Basketball Association, were already requiring youth participants to be vaccinated before the municipal mandates.
Newmarket will still check for vaccination status for youth, but will not turn people away until Nov. 1. However, those 18 and older can still be turned away, with no exemption under the provincial rules requiring full COVID-19 vaccinations to enter sports facilities.
Mayor John Taylor asked people to co-operate with staff on the new rules.
“While we appreciate the fatigue and frustration felt by everyone, we must remain diligent in keeping our community safe,” Taylor said.
“We are excited to get back to sports, and it is important that we continue working together to ensure the safety of our participants and staff to allow up to avoid any further closures of facilities. We kindly ask community members to be respectful and understanding with staff who are in the difficult position of enforcing regulations and have no latitude to change them.”