Province pulls plug on Montreal gyms after only 12 days, but experts say it had to be done

It took only 12 days for Montreal area gyms to close for the third time in a little more than a year. With the threat of variants of concern, experts question why they were allowed to reopen in the first place.

'You can't give something to someone and, in barely 12 days, you take it away,' says gym owner

Gyms in the Montreal area are closing once again, less than two weeks after reopening. Gyms in several other regions have been open since March 8. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

After shutting down for nearly six months, Luis Argumedes's fitness centre was one of many that were poised for a major comeback.

Spring had just started. His phone was ringing nonstop with members looking to book appointments with personal trainers.

Things were looking up and, at the time, Argumedes was not really in the mood to consider what would happen if his gym had to go back on pause.

"To be honest, I don't really want to think about it," he told CBC Montreal's Daybreak on March 26. "I mean, it could happen....But to be honest I just want to take it one day at a time."

Twelve days later, Argumedes's gym,  Centre U-fit, as well as every other gym in and around Montreal are on the verge of closing for the third time in a little more than a year.

The province did not provide a timeline for when they could reopen.

Luis Argumedes, the owner of Centre U Fit, is disappointed his gym will have to close less than two weeks after reopening. (Facebook/Luis Argumedes)

"It's a big let down for us, especially for our clients. Everyone was enjoying the comeback," he said on Tuesday, after the premier announced a new wave of restrictions in the province's red zones. "We just hired a few trainers because of demand."

Serge Poirier, the owner of Haltères and Go in Montreal's Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie neighbourhood, believes gyms in the province are paying the price for a major outbreak at a fitness centre in Quebec City.

You can't give something to someone and in barely 12 days, you take it away, and say that it makes them feel good.- Serge Poirier, gym owner

Public health officials in the region say at least 193 members and employees at Mega Fitness Gym 24H have tested positive for the coronavirus, leading to 164 "secondary" cases and nearly 30 outbreaks.

"I think it's unfortunate because it was really an isolated case," Poirier told Radio-Canada's Tout un Matin. "It's always 90 per cent of people that do things right that pay for the 10 per cent who aren't doing the right things."

At the time, the province said it was easing restrictions with Quebecers' mental health in mind.

Ultimately, Poirier says the psyche of fitness enthusiasts has taken an even bigger blow.

"You can't give something to someone and in barely 12 days, you take it away, and say that it makes them feel good," he said.

Prativa Baral is an epidemiologist and doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. (Jerome James)

'Too high of a risk'

Mega Fitness Gym 24 H may have been the only one garnering headlines due to a major outbreak, but the risk of transmission in an indoor, workout setting is clear, according to Prativa Baral, an epidemiologist and doctoral candidate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"Unless they're incredibly well regulated and limited in capacity, they're just too high of a risk," she told CBC Montreal's Daybreak on Tuesday. 

"People are sweating. They're breathing heavily and COVID hangs out in droplets in the air when you're doing these activities."

Contrary to what's happening in Toronto, the epidemiological situation is still stable in Montreal. That's all the more reason, according to experts, for the province to go back on its decision to ease restrictions.

"We needed to be more proactive," said Dr. Cécile Tremblay. "It's not the time to relax any measures."

WATCH | Quebec being 'proactive' with new measures, specialist says: 

Quebec being 'proactive' with new measures, says infectious diseases specialist

1 year ago
Duration 3:11
Dr. Cécile Tremblay says by tightening measures and offering up AstraZeneca to people 55 and up, the province is trying to keep the third wave under control.

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak, Sharon Yonan Renold, Radio-Canada's Tout un Matin


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