Steam room

Steam room and sauna exemptions don’t make sense – Cowichan Valley Citizen


That does not make sense.

When the newspaper received a letter from a member of the Cowichan Valley community asking why people are not required to show their vaccination passports, proving they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, to enter and use the sauna and steam rooms at the Cowichan Aquatic Center, we decided to dig deeper, find out if this is true, and if so why?

What we quickly discovered after a little online recognition is that it is indeed true. It is not necessary to present a vaccination passport to access the swimming pool, steam rooms or sauna at the Duncan Aquatic Center. There is also no need to wear a mask in these spaces. This contrasts with the rules governing the use of the gymnasium in the same building, classes or programs, which require people to present a vaccination passport. Even if you are going to attend the swimming in the center and there are more than 50 people present, you must show your passport.

Now the maskless swimming rules make sense. The pool is large and you can get away from the others. It is also full of chlorine. Also, trying to wear a mask while swimming would be like waterboarding. It’s meant to be recreation, not torture (no matter what some might think of exercise).

However, extending this policy to include the sauna, steam room and changing rooms makes much less sense. One could surely wear a mask when using the changing rooms (presumably take off the mask to shower). This is more of a problem in the steam room and sauna, but surely this is where people should have to present a vaccination passport.

The rules are incompatible with our other public health orders. Wearing a mask is compulsory in all indoor public places. And where you remove a mask, as in restaurants, you must present a vaccination passport.

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

We asked public health officials why this was so. We did not get a satisfactory response. The Public Health Bureau struggled to explain why the decision was made to exempt steam rooms and saunas from vaccine passport and masking requirements, ending up saying it is based on the science that this are not high risk places. OK, as far as it goes. But we think there needs to be a deeper explanation. If you’re considering exempting a place like this, we need more information on why, or it just seems arbitrary.