British Columbia

Dr. Bonnie Henry says COVID-19 risk means spin classes in Metro Vancouver are 'dangerous'

Taking an indoor spin class is too risky right now for anyone living in Metro Vancouver, according to B.C.'s provincial health officer, but there are no immediate plans to force studios to close.

B.C. has no immediate plans to order studios to close; spin studios say comments have led to confusion

Dr. Bonnie Henry says spin classes should be avoided in Metro Vancouver. (Shutterstock)

Taking an indoor spin class is too risky right now for anyone living in Metro Vancouver, according to B.C.'s provincial health officer, but there are no immediate plans to force studios to close.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday that anyone who lives with elders or people who are more susceptible to COVID-19 or who works in health care and essential services should refrain from activities like indoor group fitness or dance classes, but particularly stressed the dangers of spin class.

"We know there's been spin classes here in B.C. where we've had 20 or 30 people being infected. Right now, spin classes in Metro Vancouver are dangerous. We should not be doing those things," Henry said.

She pointed to an outbreak in Hamilton, Ont., where 85 cases have been connected to a single spin studio.

Henry said spin classes are a particularly opportune place for the coronavirus to spread, with lots of people inside sweating and breathing hard and loud music that makes it necessary for instructors to shout.

Combine that with the high numbers of active cases in the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal health regions, which together accounted for 93 per cent of the new cases announced Thursday, and Henry believes spin class should be off the table for most people in Metro Vancouver.

"Let's find other ways of keeping our gyms open, other ways to keep ourselves healthy," she said.

However, when asked whether she would order spin studios to close, Henry said current guidance from public health officials should cover most concerns about indoor fitness. She added that in cases where the disease has been transmitted in spin class, local health workers have followed up with the businesses involved to "take action" on the problem.

However, Henry also said Thursday that she is closely watching the data across the province to determine if B.C.'s public health orders need to be updated.

Spin studio operators say comments have led to confusion

Cycling studio operators say Dr. Henry's statement has left customers uncertain about what to do. 

Olympic cyclist and commentator Lesley Tomlinson operates four cycling studios in the Lower Mainland. She says she's been inundated with concerned messages from riders. 

"It's a blanket statement that I don't think takes into consideration those people in the industry, in the business of any indoor studio training, that have been closely following the guidelines," Tomlinson said. 

Becky Jasper, the owner of Salted Cycle, said when they reopened in July, they adopte new measures like putting riders six feet apart and installing Plexiglas barriers. 

"We bring people in one by one. They have their space [and] they stay there until the class is over and then we release the class in an orderly way to give everybody that same spacing on the way out," Jasper said, noting they hadn't had any COVID-19 exposures with the current measures.

Becky Jasper of Salted Cycle says she's already taken out measures to make her spin studio as safe as possible but would be willing to make adjustments. (Martin Diotte/CBC)

Jasper says she feels good about the safety measures her studio has taken, and can understand Dr. Henry's concerns, but would need more clarity on what else she should do.

"A statement like that can be very hard on a business and as a business owner, my question is, 'what's my next step?'" 

Jasper said she would be willing to participate in adjustments if necessary.

"If there is something that we could be doing differently to allow businesses to continue to operate in this capacity, [then] what are those changes that need to be made so we can do it."

With files from Belle Puri

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