B.C. fitness clubs, yoga studios, gyms not expected to be reopened until summer

Gyms, fitness clubs and yoga studios are not part of the next phase of B.C.’s re-opening plan when restrictions start easing on May 19.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says the province has seen the transmission of COVID-19 in gyms in B.C. and many facilities are not able to meet the physical distancing requirement.

“I don’t see gyms being in the first or second phase,” Henry said Friday.

“We’re probably looking at the third phase if things continue to go as well as they have in terms of numbers of cases. Because again, there will be restrictions. Numbers of people, depending on the size of the facility, your ability to clean, not congregating in the washrooms or changing areas.”

The province is currently in the first phase of the pandemic reopening plan. The province announced earlier this week it plans to move to the second phase after the May long weekend.

The second phase includes re-booking cancelled elective surgeries, opening up more parts of the medical system, allowing businesses like restaurants to operate under strict guidelines and allowing more kids in the K to 12 system on a voluntary basis.

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The third phase, to be rolled out between June to September if transmission rates remain low, includes more parks and campgrounds reopening, as well as movie theatres, some concert venues, and hotels.

The province will not allow concerts, conventions and other large gatherings until there is wide distribution of a vaccine.

Henry says the province is looking at measures that will need to be in place in community centres, gyms, and even for outside.

But some of the smaller recreational facilities and gyms want to be able to open before the third phase and say it’s unfair they are lumped in with bigger facilities.

“Small gyms are not the same as large gyms,” Engineered Bodies Strength & Conditioning health coach Samantha Agtarap said. “Our operations are significantly different and we have the ability to meet the requirements set out by health authorities. But currently we are not being given a chance to show that.

“This affects us in many ways,” she continued. “Many small gyms are family operations or ‘solopreneur’/partnerships operations. While many of us have pivoted to online classes and training, income has declined and will continue to decline the longer we are closed.”

Agtarap’s facility in Port Moody is working in partnership with other small business owners in an attempt to convince the province to change its mind.

The Fraser Health Authority issued a close order for all gyms on April 14. The order expires on May 31 but could be extended.

The smaller gym operators have spoken to a lawyer and are working on a “request for reconsideration” of the Fraser Health order.

“Many of us also don’t qualify for federal government programs either,” Agtarap said. “This is our only income, in many cases. The uncertainty, lack of clarity and lack of understanding by health officials doesn’t help planning for the future.”

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