COVID-19 rules for parts of the Cowichan Aquatic Centre are inconsistent. (Citizen file)

COVID-19 rules for parts of the Cowichan Aquatic Centre are inconsistent. (Citizen file)

Editorial: Steam room, sauna exemptions don’t make sense

The rules are inconsistent with our other public health orders.

It doesn’t make sense.

When the papergot a letter from a member of the Cowichan Valley community wondering why people are not required to present their vaccine passports, proving that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, to enter and use the sauna and steam rooms at the Cowichan Aquatic Centre, we decided to look into it further, to find out if this is true, and if so why?

What we quickly found out after a little online recon is that it is indeed true. One does not need to show a vaccine passport to access the pool, steam rooms or sauna at the Aquatic Centre in Duncan. One also does not need to wear a mask in these spaces. This is contrasted by the rules governing using the gym in the same building, any classes or programs, which require people to present a vaccine passport. Even if you are going to watch swimming at the centre and there are more than 50 people present you have to show your passport.

Now, the no-mask rules for swimming make sense. The pool is large, and one can distance oneself from others. It is also full of chlorine. Further, trying to wear a mask while swimming would be akin to waterboarding. It’s supposed to be recreation, not torture (no matter what some might feel about exercise).

However, spilling that policy over to include the sauna, steam room and changing rooms makes far less sense. Surely one could wear a mask while using the changing rooms (presumably taking the mask off to shower). It’s more problematic in the steam room and sauna, but surely that’s where people should have to present a vaccine passport.

The rules are inconsistent with our other public health orders. One has to wear a mask in all indoor public places. And where one takes a mask off, such as at restaurants, one has to present a vaccine passport.

Surely, when one is sitting with others, sometimes for long periods of time, in an enclosed space such as a sauna or steam room it only makes sense to have some kind of transmission control measures in place.

We asked public health officials why this is so. We did not get a satisfactory answer. The Public Health Office had a hard time articulating why the decision had been made to exempt steam rooms and saunas from both vaccine passport requirements and masking requirements, eventually just saying that it’s based on science that these are not high-risk venues. OK, as far as it goes. But we think there needs to be a more thorough explanation. If you’re going to exempt a venue like this, we need more information on why, or it just seems arbitrary.

Editorials