The first thing out of Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s mouth during her COVID-19 briefing Tuesday (Jan. 18) was an apology.
“I would like to apologize for the order timing,” said Dr. Henry. “The intent was to have the orders in place until I could provide clear direction on orders at today’s briefing and I know that was a little bit of an error on our part about having them expire at 12:01 a.m. as opposed to 11:59 tonight.”
Dr. Henry then stated that she was taking the cautious step of reopening gyms and exercise facilities with capacity limits and the continued use of the B.C. vaccine card.
“These will be in effect with the restart of gyms starting on Jan. 20. That will include individual and group fitness and being able to resume at fitness centres and gyms across the province. Full vaccination will of course be continued to be required at all locations.”
Limits of seven metres square for every individual to exercise in will also be in effect.
“We’ve learned about the measures that are important to help make sure that they (fitness centres) can restart safely and still project people,” said Dr. Henry. “The space requirement applies to people working out on their own whether it’s doing weights or on a treadmill, but also applies to group fitness classes to have than unencumbered space around people.”
Ahead of Dr. Henry’s briefing, about 100 gyms and fitness centres across the province took part in Operation Green Light, in defiance of COVID-19 public health orders.
One of those gyms was Iron Energy in West Kelowna, which has kept its doors open for the last couple of weeks, despite being fined and ordered to close by Interior Health.
“We’re trying to make a stand,” says general manager Kristy Gamblin. “The way that these mandates have been happening more so with gyms getting shut down, small businesses getting shut down for that matter it’s not just us. Plus not really having the science to back up as to why. We’re tired of it.”
Gamblin says they wanted to show that facilities such as Iron Gym are essential to the mental health of its clients.
“We’ve had tons of people email us with their stories about what the gym means to them and how proud they are for us to be open. We hear stories daily from people about how the gym has changed their lives. Helping them get sober, get off drugs, get out of the bar, help with depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide.”
Many other fitness centres were abiding by public health orders. GoodLife Fitness at the Capri Centre was one that stayed closed.
“We are aware that some gyms in B.C. plan to reopen on January 18, against public health and provincial mandates, says Jason Sheridan, chief operating officer, GoodLife Fitness. “In our experience working with government and public health officials across Canada over the last two years, we do not believe that going against public health regulations will yield the long-term positive results we want for our employees, members, or the community. We understand how challenging and frustrating COVID closures are for everyone. Despite being disappointed with current restrictions in B.C., GoodLife is committed to following all public health mandates as we have done throughout the pandemic. Instead, we are focused on working with the BC Government to develop a reopening strategy so all gyms can reopen soon and as safely as possible.”