Updated Recreation and Sport Key Messages

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Below are some sport and recreation key messages that have been developed and reviewed by Public Health:


Recreation and Sport Key Messages April 13, 2021


  • The presence of COVID-19 variants (including B.1.1.7), introduces new challenges and it is important that facility operators and organizations are aware of the following:
    • COVID-19 variants may spread more rapidly than the original strain of the virus.
    • Given that COVID-19 is transmissible by asymptomatic individuals, it may go undetected, thus the more rapid spread of COVID-19 variants can lead to more cases, and potentially more deaths.
    • The potential risk of COVID-19 spread, is highest when individuals are indoors, within two metres of each other, in a small space with limited ventilation, sharing equipment or food, and/or taking deep breaths. Therefore, recreational activity and sports occurring indoors and/or in close proximity to others, are considered higher risk.
    • Maintaining physical distance as much as possible during recreation activities and sport is very important, especially, as Alert Level 2 commences, particularly in the context of COVID-19 variants.
    • It is important that in the context of COVID-19 variants, resuming sport and recreation activity should include a modified and phased in approach.
  • A number of inquiries regarding whether spectators are permitted to attend training and/or competition have been received. The Special Measures Order states, “with the exception of 1 person per child, as required to assist the child in preparing to ‘participate in a group activity, spectators are not permitted.”
  • Non-medical masks should be worn as much as possible when in indoor spaces. Full information may be found at www.gov.nl.ca/covid-19/non-medical-masks-use-in-public/. While participating in indoor sports, NMM must be worn inside the facility, however participants may remove their mask when engaged in moderate or vigorous physical activity as determined by the coaches or organizers. NMM should be worn where possible and it is recommended that coaches wear NMM at all times while coaching.
  • The province has released a timeline showing all eligible individuals 16 years of age or older being able to receive one dose of vaccine by late-June or early-July: www.gov.nl.ca/covid-19/vaccine/files/Vaccine-Chart-Schedule-April-7-v3.pdf
  • All public health measures (e.g. travel restrictions, self-isolation, physical distancing, mask use, gathering size restrictions and vaccinations) work together to limit the introduction and spread of COVID-19. It is important to continue to follow all public health measures, even when vaccinated.
  • PH advises that provincial sport organizations and private or non-PSO sport operators should submit Return to Sport Plans to TCAR for review and approval. It is recommended that Return to Sport Plans are submitted for review and approval for all inter-squad competition (competition between teams).
  • If individuals are aware of organizations or operators that are offering inter-squad competition or out of province competition opportunities that have not been reviewed and approved, it is recommended that individuals/organizations share that information with TCAR or public health officials.

Responses to Questions – Recreation

Are parents that assist children/youth at arenas considered assistants or spectators? Allowing them in facility could result in 100 people at a facility (if 1 parent/participant) and sport guidance notes no spectators allowed.
  • The Special Measures Order (SMO) states “with the exception of 1 person per child, as required to assist the child in preparing to ‘participate in a group activity, spectators are not permitted.”
  • Sport guidance does not state that spectators are not permitted, but compliance with the SMO is required.
Are lifeguards required to wear masks when on the pool deck, or is this up to the employer?
  • PH advised that the Guidance for Indoor Pools states, “Participants (5 years of age or older), spectators, employees, etc. should wear a non-medical mask when not engaged in any form of physical activity and while moving throughout the facility (e.g., common spaces, viewing areas, change facilities, hallways, etc.). Non-medical masks may be removed when there is a likelihood of the mask becoming wet”.
Are Return to Play plans required to be submitted for new (e.g. initiatives not happening before this current lockdown) inter-squad and skills/drills?
  • PH advised that Return to Sport/Play Plans are not required for skills and drills and groups and organizations should comply with relevant Guidance (e.g. Sport Guidance, Arena Operations Guidance, etc.)
  • Return to Sport/Play Plans are required for any inter-squad competition (competition between two teams). Groups/organizations that are members of a provincial sport organization (PSO), should contact the PSO regarding next steps. Private operators or groups that are not affiliated with a PSO should complete a Return to Sport Plan and submit to TCAR
  • Return to Sport/Play plans are not required for intra-squad competition (competition involving members of the same team).
Can after school groups come together in groups of 50? Inside and/or outside?
  • PH advises that after school groups are not permitted to come together to form larger groups of up to 50 (whether indoors or outdoors). In keeping with child care guidelines, small groups should be treated as cohorts, and be kept separated.
Are after school staff and children required to wear mask and eye protection outside?
  • PH advises that while there is not a requirement for staff and children to wear non-medical masks or eye protection outside, PH advice is to consider wearing a non-medical mask whenever individuals interact with people from outside of their usual contacts.
During an after school program, do children need to remain 6 feet apart while sitting at tables?
  • PH advises that a physical distance of 2 metres (6 feet) should be maintained as much as possible, recognizing that this may be challenging for younger participants.
Will be any guidance around personal care or campers that need assistance?
  • After School Program guidance states that, “after school program staff may prompt participants for personal care and other supportive needs, but may not physically assist”. A consistent designate may be identified to help participants with these needs, if required. This designated person must complete the same public health screening as staff and participants when entering the program facility. The role, responsibilities and schedule for the designate are to be determined in consultation with the family/guardian/ caregiver and the after school program provider.
Is it possible to get an exception for personal care considering the unique needs of camps that solely service persons with disabilities? Campers with unique needs require a reduced ratio of camper to instructor (less than 1:5 ratio). If so, who is the public health contact to request the exception?
  • PH advises that 1:15 is the maximum ratio. Camps are permitted to reduce that ratio if needed.
Will there be guidance regarding overnight camps?
  • Yes. PH is currently accepting plans for consideration, on a case-by-case basis as requested. Guidance will be prepared for submitting such plans.
Seeking clarification on cleaning in Fitness, Dance and Yoga Guidance. Does disinfecting need to take place every hour, or between sessions/users groups?
  • PH advises that “Frequently touched surfaces, should be cleaned and disinfected twice per day (e.g. door handles, registration desk area, change rooms, etc.). Equipment such as dumbbells, or other single use equipment may be cleaned/disinfected before and after each session.”
Can facilities with gymnasiums or a rink surface allow more than one group of 50, if space can be divided into 2 “rooms” such that each group has own exit/entrance and washrooms?
  • PH advises that arena ice surfaces cannot be effectively divided in this way, as the air flow would cover all areas. Gymnasium spaces may be able to be divided, if the walls reach from floor to ceiling.
  • Facility operators may contact Service NL www.gov.nl.ca/dgsnl/department/contact/#locations
What are the cleaning requirements for playgrounds?
  • Park Guidance states that, “All high-touch surfaces should be sanitized twice per day, except when weather conditions prevent doing so (e.g., freezing temperatures).”

Responses to Questions – Sport

Should PSO remain with two-week intervals for progressing through phases of Alert Level 2?
  • PH notes that a phased-in approach is recommended in returning to all activities, including training and competition. PH advises that at least a 2 week period between phases is a recommended timeline, to ensure careful consideration prior to returning to inter-team competition and other activities.
Are respite workers included in the maximum numbers permitted in facilities?
  • Respite workers where required are permitted to attend and would not be included in group numbers.
Can registration begin prior to approval of RTP plan?
  • While registration would be permitted to commence prior to the approval of a Return to Play/Sport Plan, groups should inform all registrants that activity is not permitted to commence, until approval has been received on a Return to Play/Sport Plan. Organizations/groups should submit RTS/RTP Plans in advance to ensure adequate time is available to review and approve plans prior to the planned start date.
Is it anticipated that numbers for gatherings will increase in Alert Level 2?
  • PH is hopeful that gathering size numbers may increase over time, however changes would be dependent on continued low COVID-19 case counts.
Does the arena spectator guidelines apply to all other facilities.
  • Yes. The Special Measures Order applies to multiple types of facilities. Furthermore, Indoor Pool guidance states:
  • “Indoor pools may re-open with a capacity of 50 people including participants, lifeguards, staff, volunteers and instructors (this would not include spectators in designated viewing areas)” and “It is highly recommended that facility operators limit spectators to designated areas and only allow one caregiver per family.”
Is it possible that teams may have competition against a team from a different community?
  • Teams that are interested in inter-squad competition, including inter-squad competition between teams from different communities within their regular competition schedule, should submit a Return to Sport Plan to TCAR. The RTS Plan should include detailed information regarding the competition(s), including details on how teams will comply with relevant Guidance and public health measures.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Megan at mcummings@recreationnl.com.