Armstrong, B.C. fitness centre fined for remaining open during COVID-19 pandemic

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The owner of a fitness centre in Armstrong is upset he has been fined for remaining open, even though B.C.'s top doctor hasn't mandated that gyms close. Jules Knox reports. – Apr 8, 2020

A gym owner in Armstrong, B.C. is upset after he received a fine for remaining open during the COVID-19 pandemic, even though B.C.’s top doctor hasn’t ordered fitness centres to close.

While Dr. Bonnie Henry ordered services like spas and salons to close, under provincial guidelines, fitness facilities are still allowed to stay open as long as they follow social distancing rules.

However, on Thursday, Interior Health’s medical health officer issued an order for gyms, yoga studios and other personal training facilities to close.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: B.C. updates number of COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region to 130

When Peter Nenasheff kept his business Fitness 2 Life open the next day, Interior Health slapped him with a $345 fine.

“There’s no reason for me to shut down. I’m in a 7,000-square-foot building,” Nenasheff said.

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“I was only allowing 10 people in at a time. The moment you walk through the door we have a hand sanitizing station there.”

READ MORE: B.C. to require people returning to Canada to have self-isolation plan

Interior Health, however, said it had warned Nenasheff to close multiple times.

“Medical health officers in B.C. have the legal authority to take any reasonable steps necessary to protect public health: this can include issuing orders, tickets and initiating legal proceedings against business, individuals or groups of people,” Interior Health spokesperson Karl Hardt said in an email.

However, Nenasheff thinks somebody from the health region should have inspected his facility in person to see if it was following safety protocols.

READ MORE: 82 First Nations on lockdown as B.C. records first COVID-19 cases in Indigenous communities

The gym owner also said that while he’s happy to follow the rules set out by Dr. Henry, he doesn’t think Interior Health should be issuing orders too.

That will lead to a patchwork of policies, and that’s exactly what Premier John Horgan said he didn’t want when he suspended most local states of emergency in favour of the provincial one, Nenasheff added.

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In a statement, the health authority said that Armstrong’s bylaw department was notified of non-compliance at Fitness 2 Life and that it will continue to monitor the facility.

Interior Health said it was the first health authority to issue an order specific to fitness facilities and gyms.

“IH made the decision to issue the class order to close all gyms and like businesses within our region due to the risk to the public using these facilities, several of which were still operating despite the ongoing pandemic,” Hardt said.

“The risk to the gym members outweighed the benefit of attending a gym facility,” he added.

Interior Health’s order closing fitness facilities was issued on Thursday and expires on May 30, although it can be cancelled or extended at any time.

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