As a public health order mandated that fitness facilities in B.C. be closed as of Thursday, Dec. 23, several Kamloops gyms remained open in defiance of restrictions.
No Limits Fitness, Gold’s Gym, Anytime Fitness, Ladies Only Fitness and Strength Camp Kamloops stayed open on Thursday.
No Limits Fitness co-owners Darren Maywood and Justin Grover met reporters on Thursday on behalf of the group, which is calling on the province to deem fitness “essential.” They are also mulling a class-action lawsuit, noting legal counsel has been retained and the group has been contacted by facilities across the province.
“We’re just not going to close,” Grover said. “We’re working on putting a class-action together. We’re gearing up. We’ve got support in Vernon. We’ve got support in Penticton, Kelowna, Prince George, Langley, Nanaimo, Terrace, Trail. They’ve reached out to us.”
Added Maywood: “We went from five gyms in Kamloops yesterday morning to, last I checked, we’re 30-something around the province.”
Grover said gyms have followed every public health order since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 — closing for three months, cancelling classes, checking vaccine passports, adhering to mask requirements and following cleaning protocols.
Grover said they are concerned about the mental health of clientele without access to fitness facilities, noting the decision to stay open — which could result in hefty fines from the provincial government — is not related to finances.
“They’re [public health] recognizing that you can go eat deep-fried pickles and get sloshed in a pub on cheap draft and that’s essential, but the person who has been 20 years in AA and uses a fitness facility to keep their head straight, they’re not recognizing that,” Grover said.
While provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said fitness facilities have been a place for COVID-19 transmission, Maywood said COVID-19 outbreaks have not occurred in Kamloops fitness facilities.
Both Maywood and Grover are vaccinated and maintain their facility is clean and safe.
“You’re not going to find a cleaner facility in town,” Maywood said.
The pair pointed to contradictions in public health orders. Maywood questioned why malls will be allowed to remain open on Boxing Day, with people shoulder to shoulder looking for bargains. Grover pointed to thousands of cheering fans attending hockey games in large arenas and questioned why government cannabis and liquor stores remain open.
The Kamloops YMCA closed its gym and cancelled its fitness classes. However, its sauna, hot tub and pool remain open.
“This closure makes zero sense,” Maywood said. “And the push we’ve got from members when it was announced — the people are like, ‘We’ve done all the things. We’ve got double-vaxxed. We’ve done all the stuff. Now they’re taking the gym away from us again?’ Where does this end?”
Timing of the announcement and restrictions are also being criticized. Maywood said no advance notice was provided. He noted the Christmas season can lead people into depression — a time of high stress, pricey bills and over-eating and drinking. January and February are the busiest months of the year for gyms as they get a surge from people looking to fulfil New Year’s resolutions.
“They’re putting their poor choices onto us as an industry and that’s not OK,” Grover said.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said all gyms must close under her public health order related to the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
“For many, including me, physical activity and going to a gym or fitness centre is a key part of the mental and physical well-being,” Henry said on Friday (Dec. 24) in response to a question from KTW about whether any allowances will be made for gyms to stay open.
The public health order is in effect until at least Jan. 18.
“I know this has impacted people that required these to be closed on a temporary basis right now,” Henry said. “This is a very high-risk period. We see this is transmitting rapidly, particularly in young people, and I know those in the gym community have been ding their part and gyms and fitness centres have had real good protocols in place.”
Henry urged people to stay connected online or through activities outside.
Henry said there is no option for gyms and fitness centres to remain open under the order to close.
Businesses that defy public health orders can be fined or closed.
The provincial government has said violation tickets can be issued by police officers, community safety unit officers, liquor and cannabis inspectors, gaming investigators, conservation officers and WorkSafeBC investigators.
Fines of $2,300 can be issued, the province said, noting that police can recommend charges against repeat offenders. If convicted, a business owner could face penalties of up to $10,000 and/or one year in prison. In addition, the province said, local governments may be asked to revoking business or liquor licences.
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