Gyms and health amenities throughout B.C. to reopen Jan. 18
The BC Department of Health states that fitness activities can generate these aerosols and lead to rapid transmission
Fitness facilities across BC anticipate reopening on January 18 as a provincial mandate ends.
In late December, BC Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry imposed new restrictions including the closure of gyms and other fitness centers as the province saw a spike in omicron cases.
This Tuesday is a much-anticipated time for gym-goers and fitness facility owners hoping the mandate will not be renewed, despite hints from Henry that some mandates included in the same announcement could very well be renewed.
When the closure of the “indoor event” was announced, a petition calling for more data transparency gained prominence across the province.
The petition, started by Samantha Agtarap, co-owner of Engineering Bodies Strength & Strengthening in Port Moody, is urging the BC government to share data on transmission locations.
In the petition, Agtarap writes that there is a pause in implementing decisions, noting that religious gatherings remain open while chains and independent gyms must close.
“Gyms have changed operations significantly to keep their customers as safe as possible, and the vast majority have not experienced any cases of transmission or significant outbreaks in the last two years,” the petition reads.
As of January 16, the petition has received 49,303 signatures.
Over the winter holidays, people took to social media to express their frustration at gym closures, often questioning the logic behind malls that remain open via gym closures.
Rapid transmission through the air
The main reason for the closure of gyms and other fitness facilities is the fast transfer rates of the Omicron variant compared to its cousins like Delta.
And while experts continue to understand whether Omicron is fully airborne, the known fact is that this variant travels from one person to another quickly and easily.
Glacier Media contacted the British Columbia Department of Health to clarify why gyms are at a higher risk of transmitting Omicron than shopping malls.
“COVID-19, including the Omicron variant, is spread through the respiratory droplets that an infected person produces when breathing, coughing, or speaking. Fitness activities create these aerosols and can result in rapid transmission,” BC’s Department of Health said in a statement to Glacier Media. “The arrangement applies regardless of any ventilation system that a gym or fitness center has.”
Adequate ventilation is critical to provide fresh air and prevent transmission of Omicron. For this reason, outdoor practice is still highly recommended over indoor events. This is because the virus can remain in the air that people breathe indoors and where ventilation isn’t optimal, according to Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada.
Despite mandates to close gyms across the province, some fitness facilities have chosen to defy COVID restrictions.
The Iron Energy Fitness Center in Kelowna lost its business license and was fined $2,300 for defying the closure order.
“We are open and members are still training. We know we’re doing something right, and that’s why we stand strong. I only close this gym if they pull me out in handcuffs. All members will get it on tape and Canadians will see it. I want that,” co-owner Brian Mark told Castanet.
Other fitness facilities, such as kickboxing gym 30 Minute Hit, said on Facebook they would be opening their Langley, Cloverdale and White Rock locations at 50 percent capacity. The gym said it is doing so with permission from the Fraser Health Authority because they fall under sport, which claims that sporting activities that “normally take place in a sporting environment can continue”.
In a statement to Glacier Media, the ministry said, “Indoor events involve a gathering of participants for the purpose of exercise or fitness activity or adult education.”
The operators of 30 Minute Hit in Langley declined to comment.