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Saskatchewan Roughriders not joining list of CFL teams mandating COVID-19 vaccine for fans

A growing number of CFL teams will require fans to show proof of COVID 19 vaccination, but the Saskatchewan Roughriders won't be one of them.

Majority of CFL franchises will now require fans to show proof of vaccine to attend games

The Saskatchewan Roughriders will not require fans at games to be vaccinated against COVID-19 despite a growing number of CFL teams doing just that. (Glenn Reid/CBC News)

A growing number of CFL teams will require fans to show proof of COVID 19 vaccination, but the Saskatchewan Roughriders won't be one of them.

One health policy expert says the Roughriders need to change their position immediately for public safety, but also for the team's own financial interest.

"It's just the sensible thing to do," said Cheryl Camillo of the University of Regina's Johnson-Shoyama graduate school of public policy.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers was the first team to mandate vaccines for fans. The three Ontario franchises have just announced a similar policy. Provincial vaccine passports in Quebec and B.C. will likely apply to teams there.

On Monday, the company that owns the Calgary Stampeders announced it's bringing in a COVID-19 vaccination policy for all fans eligible to receive the vaccine, as well as event staff and employees.

Johnson-Shoyama School of Public Policy professor Cheryl Camillo says society should rethink its priorites before simply "revving everything back up" post-coronavirus. (David Stobbe)

That leaves only the Roughriders and the Edmonton Elks.

An official with the Roughriders told CBC News Monday the COVID-19 policy remains unchanged. The team is encouraging vaccination and mask use in common areas, but it will not be required.

The official said there are more than 200 hand sanitizer stations, improved ventilation in indoor spaces, enhanced cleaning and other measures to keep people safe.

Camillo described herself as an avid Roughriders supporter, but said she's not going to games while masking and vaccination remains optional.

"As much of a fan as I am, I wouldn't really feel comfortable," she said.

Camillo noted the Saskatchewan Health Authority has already identified COVID-19 infections at the first Roughriders game. She said there will likely be more.

Camillo said the team may be hesitating because they don't want to attract the ire of those opposed to masks or vaccine passports. But she said the team may lose even more financially if people like her don't feel safe to attend games.

Unlike the NFL and other North American professional leagues, the CFL still derives most of its revenue from game ticket sales. She said the most diehard fans, who follow the Roughriders to other cities, will have to show proof of vaccines anyway.

Camillo said the Roughriders can also play a big role in modelling good behaviour for Saskatchewan residents. Camillo said every organization needs to do everything it can do combat COVID-19.

Most of the surging numbers of people hospitalized across Saskatchewan for COVID-19 are unvaccinated. Camillo said this is completely preventable.

"All that health care costs money," she said. "We can't continue to pour money into the health system to treat this illness."

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