Mike Elford is bewildered by the rules around B.C. vaccine cards at the Cowichan Aquatic Centre.
He said that while vaccine cards are needed to access the adjacent gym, none are required at the Duncan area rec centre’s pool, sauna or steam room areas.
“You are changing in an airless locker room with others showering two feet away, and also sitting in the steam room and sauna with people right next to you who may not have been vaccinated,” Elford said.
“It doesn’t make sense that vaccine cards are needed to take part in activities in the gym at the facility, but are not needed in the swimming, sauna and steam room areas. I emailed [Health Minister] Adrian Dix and [Public Health Officer] Dr. Bonnie Henry asking about this, but received no reply.”
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A spokeswoman with the Public Health Office said gyms are considered “high-risk settings” for spreading COVID-19 because people in them are usually sweating, breathing heavily and in close contact with each other, so vaccine cards are required.
She said while chlorine in the pool water can play a part in minimizing the risk of spreading the pandemic, people who use public pools are mainly not required to show a vaccine card because they can still keep a safe distance between themselves and others, and most pools are monitored to ensure this.
But the reason why people using public saunas and steam rooms (social distancing is required in the CAC’s sauna and steam room) don’t need a vaccine card is not so clear.
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The B.C. Centre of Disease Control has undertaken research which has concluded there is no clear evidence of saunas or steam rooms being higher or lower risk environments than other places, officials said.
“There is no strong rationale for treating steam rooms and saunas differently from other settings,” the centre said.
But the spokeswoman at the PHO office said the medical data has concluded that sauna and steam rooms are considered lower-risk settings for spreading the pandemic.
Asked to provide the data that came to this conclusion, she said she had no breakdown of the facts behind the policy of not requiring a vaccine card at public saunas and steam rooms.
“We’re having issues justifying the reasons, but it is based on medical data,” she said.