A handful of B.C. gyms have chosen to openly defy public health orders that require all gyms to close until Jan. 18. The order, which came into effect on Dec. 23, was designed to last only three-and-a-half weeks.
Fitness is about strengthening the body and the mind — building resilience and preserving against hardship. What these gym owners have shown is that they lack the strength and resilience to deliver adapted fitness programming in the face of surging COVID cases.
Some of the resistance is powered by anti-vaccine views and beliefs that being physically active boosts immunity against COVID.
Some of the resistance is warranted — people want to know why they can go for Boxing Day madness at the mall or sit unmasked at a table of six in any restaurant, but can’t go to their local gym.
Gym users feel that the province is standing in the way of their health and wellness during a time of extreme burden on people’s mental and physical health. That’s a legitimate concern.
The province hasn’t done a good job of explaining why gyms are different. They’ve failed to share data that suggests COVID infections are happening more inside gyms than in other settings.
Dr. Bonnie Henry was asked to provide that data at a Jan 4. news conference. She said she couldn’t provide the data and insisted gyms are an “amplifier” of COVID within communities.
In the absence of publicly available provincial data, the best evidence we have for the spread of COVID-19 in fitness settings is in the world of professional sport, where several teams have had to cancel or postpone games due to outbreaks. Even in highly regulated settings like high-performance sport, Omicron can still spread rapidly.
A vast majority of gyms in B.C. have complied with public health orders and continue to do so. Over the next two weeks, the government has the opportunity to work with industry leaders to develop a safe restart plan for fitness centres to prevent future closures. Until then, there are plenty of ways to remain active at home or outdoors.
Gym owners who choose to remain open and claim the temporary closures are tyranny or an attack on Canadian freedoms do little to advance that conversation.
At best, their actions elevate their business into the spotlight for a brief moment. At worst, their actions endanger the health of their communities and prolong the pandemic that shut them down in the first place.
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