The University of Guelph is extending COVID-19 vaccination requirements and is requiring all varsity athletes to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 for the upcoming 2021-22 season.
This decision reflects discussions involving U of G leaders and the Department of Athletics and is supported by Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health.
The University plans to broaden these discussions and may further extend vaccination requirements, particularly for courses and programs involving close and frequent contact such as the performing arts, especially theatre and music.
“We believe this is an important and necessary step to helping ensure health and safety as we continue to plan for a greater return to in-person courses and extracurricular activities in the fall,” said Dr. Gwen Chapman, provost and vice-president (academic).
During the pandemic, varsity sports were suspended in Ontario due to the high risk of transmission. The dynamic nature of sporting activities means athletes are often in close and regular contact with each other during practices and competitions and also interact with athletes from other universities in high-touch, competitive and sometimes contained environments.
Recently, Ontario University Athletics announced plans for a safe return to competitive sports in the fall.
Scott McRoberts, director of U of G’s Department of Athletics, said there is already a strong process in place for providing COVID-19 vaccines to varsity athletes and for monitoring their vaccination status through the University’s Student Health Services.
“We are happy to have learned that most of our varsity athletes are already fully vaccinated,” McRoberts said.
“We are now formalizing our vaccination confirmation process, which will help ensure that we are doing everything we can to facilitate a safe return of varsity sports in the fall semester.”
Student varsity athletes will need to provide official confirmation of their vaccination status by Sept. 30. Vaccines are now widely available through on-campus clinics, public health units, pharmacies and doctor’s offices, meaning that no issues should prevent varsity athletes who are able to be vaccinated from receiving both doses before that date, McRoberts said.
The Department of Athletics will inform varsity athletes about how to submit confirmation of their vaccination status during the week of Aug. 9. Students are asked to keep all emails, receipts and records pertaining to their vaccination.
Exemptions will be granted for medical reasons or under grounds protected under the Human Rights Code; details will also be communicated during the week of Aug. 9.
The Department of Athletics plans to implement rapid testing between mid-August and Sept. 30 for teams holding practices; regular testing will continue beyond Sept. 30 for varsity athletes wh0 are not fully vaccinated (those who receive exemptions).
Other health and safety measures – such as mask-wearing, hand-washing, testing, capacity limits in common spaces and regular self-assessment for COVID-19 symptoms – may also be in place during the fall 2021 semester, depending on the latest guidance from public health.
“The University of Guelph has worked hard to continue to provide a safe, welcoming and high-quality learning, working and sporting experience during the global pandemic,” Chapman said.
The University has been unequivocal in its support of vaccination as crucial to combatting the global pandemic and ensuring general health and safety. Public health experts have established that vaccines are a safe and effective way to protect individuals and their contacts from serious illness due to COVID-19.
The city of Guelph has some of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in Ontario; more than 87 per cent of people aged 12 and up have received their first shot and 77 per cent are fully vaccinated. As a strong community partner, the University wants to support continuation of this upward trend, including among students entering or returning to the region, said Chapman.
“The University continues to encourage everyone to get fully vaccinated,” she said.
“The University is involved in active discussions with public health officials, scientists and others. We will continue to engage with these experts to inform our decision-making.”
Additional details and information about vaccine requirements, including answers to frequently asked questions and other COVID-19-related issues, are available on the University’s COVID-19 page. You may also call the University’s COVID-19 hotline at 519-824-4120, Ext. 53906.