British Columbia

B.C. government restrictions around group indoor fitness classes confusing for some studios

The province has identified certain indoor group fitness activities as high-risk and they've been ordered to close until Dec. 7. Gyms that offer workouts and personal training are still allowed to operate as long as their COVID-19 safety plans are being strictly adhered to.

Group indoor activities including spin and hot yoga are suspended until Dec. 7

Clients workout at Yard Athletics in Vancouver, British Columbia on Tuesday, November 10, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry introduced new restrictions Thursday aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19 within gyms and other fitness facilities.

The province has identified certain indoor group fitness activities as high-risk and they've been ordered to close until Dec. 7.

Indoor fitness classes are restricted

The restricted activities include spin classes, high intensity interval training and hot yoga.

Becky Jasper, the owner of Salted Cycle, a spin class studio in North Vancouver, said it's been tough for businesses to navigate the changing restrictions.

"I feel for sure sad about the news for our industry and a bit frustrated to be labelled as dangerous, because our most important element of our business model is the health and safety of our client base. So that's definitely tough to hear."

Dr. Bonnie Henry has suspended spin classes until at least Dec. 7. (Spin Society/Dominik Desbois)

What counts as 'high-risk'

Henry said the restrictions are different from two weeks ago because public health officials were tasked to research the conditions that made certain exercise classes more risky than others.

Some of the risk factors include combinations of closed environments, poor ventilation, people too close together and loud music making it necessary for people to shout to be heard.

Businesses and recreation centres that operate indoor group physical activities were told to suspend them on Nov. 7, 2020 under a new public health order which has now been extended. (Shutterstock)

But other group activities such as dance and low intensity exercises can continue indoors under updated guidelines which will likely include rules to ensure additional space, reduced numbers and reserved spots. Yoga classes can also continue at normal temperatures.

She said those guidelines will be posted shortly.

Mandatory masks in indoor public spaces, but what about gyms?

Gyms that offer workouts and personal training for up to two people are still allowed to operate as long as their COVID-19 safety plans are being strictly adhered to.

The Ministry of Health hasn't confirmed whether gyms are included under the province's new rules for mandatory masks in indoor public spaces.

For now, wearing masks is at the discretion of individual fitness centres, although distancing protocols are still in place.

Safety plan approvals rescinded

Henry acknowledged that last week she made the requirement that businesses adhere to the new guidance and get approval for their safety plans before they could restart activities but that is no longer the case for high risk activities.

She said those approvals which have already been granted in the Vancouver Coastal Health region have been rescinded.

Henry also said there are to be no spectators at indoor or outdoor sports and no travel for any of these sports outside of your local community. 

Fitness studios worried about impact

The new restrictions come as a shock to some fitness studios who say they were hoping for more consistent messaging from B.C. health officials. 

"To kind of reopen last week and now close this week ... it's hard to provide consistent messaging to our clientele," said Matt Coombe, owner of Modo Yoga in North Vancouver.

"Do we have to lay people off or are we going to be open again tomorrow?"

Uncertainty about restrictions being lifted

The new restrictions are currently in effect until Dec. 7, but some business owners worry that they will be extended until the end of the year.

"They don't actually know what they're going to say on Dec. 7," said Lesley Tomlinson, who owns Tag Cycling. "This is a seasonal business as are many indoor activities."

Lesley Tomlinson, owner of Tag Cycling, will be offering virtual training sessions for her clients while her studio is shut down. (Martin Diotte/CBC)

Her cycling studio will be offering free virtual training sessions like it did when it was shut down in the spring. She says the studio typically generates upwards of 65 to 70 per cent of its revenue during the fall and winter months.

"There needs to be immediate attentiveness to getting everyone open again, because people are going to be going out of business. We're going to be losing jobs," said Tomlinson.

Jasper is hoping the provincial government will provide financial support to businesses that have had to close due to the recent restrictions.

with files from Zahra Premji


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