Atlantic University Sport issues vaccine mandate for student-athletes

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In this file photo, a member of the Saint Mary's University women's hockey team is shown reaching for a puck against University of New Brunswick. (Nick Pearce - image credit)
In this file photo, a member of the Saint Mary's University women's hockey team is shown reaching for a puck against University of New Brunswick. (Nick Pearce - image credit)

The organization responsible for governing university sport in Atlantic Canada will require participants to be fully vaccinated unless there is an approved exemption.

In a media release Thursday, Atlantic University Sport announced that those without an exemption must have two doses of COVID-19 vaccine for AUS-sanctioned competition.

Executive director Phil Currie says health and safety is the priority.

"As our communities adjust to living with COVID-19, we feel a responsibility to do everything within our power to protect the health of our student-athletes, coaching staff, fans and other stakeholders," Currie said in the release. "We're confident these measures are the right ones to take to ensure the safety of our participants and our communities."

Dalhousie, Acadia, Cape Breton, Memorial, Mount Allison, Moncton, UNB, UPEI, Saint Mary's, St. Francis Xavier and St. Thomas are the Atlantic schools with some participation in the AUS.

New policy takes effect Friday

The new policy, beginning Friday, extends to student-athletes, coaches, team staff, officials, minor officials and game-day staff.

Those who are within 14 days of receiving their second dose may participate, but only if they provide proof of a negative rapid test result on the day before competition. They must also provide proof of a negative rapid test result within 48 hours of the competition.

Those with approved vaccination exemptions "for medical or human-rights based reasons" will be required to have tests at least twice per week over and above the other testing requirements.

Spectators attending games will also be expected to wear masks unless they are eating or drinking.

In an interview Thursday afternoon, Currie said the pandemic has been hard on student-athletes both mentally and physically, so he's thrilled to see them being able to get back to competing.

"They prepare, they train, they work very hard to compete and when that's taken away from them, it's a very difficult thing," he said. "For the overall health and wholeness of our student-athletes, getting back to competition is vital."

The new policies are expected to last until 2022, but the AUS says it will continue to monitor provincial public health directives and guidelines.

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