Ontario moves into Stage 3 on Friday, meaning nearly all businesses will be allowed to welcome patrons back through their doors — including gyms.
Premier Doug Ford announced on Monday that much of the province will enter the third phase of reopening amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, with the exceptions of the Greater Toronto Area and the Hamilton, Niagara, Haldimand-Norfolk, Lambton and Windsor-Essex regions.
Gyms, which were mandated to close back in March, can reopen under strict measures on size limits, physical distancing, and equipment cleaning between each user, Ford said.
Fitness centres in some other provinces have already been allowed to reopen after those regions loosened certain public health restrictions.
Although the government has implemented restrictions, businesses such as Planet Fitness said there are still areas where members may be at risk.
“Planet Fitness incorporated a thorough reopening plan that focuses on the safety and well-being of both our staff and members,” a spokesperson for the gym told Global News, including measures such as daily temperature checks for staff.
Temperature checks, masks
Staff will also be required to wear personal protective equipment, including masks and gloves.
Per the company’s website, patrons will not be required to wear masks while working out unless face coverings are mandated by regional guidelines.
Other big box gyms have also increased safety measures.
Jason Sheridan, Goodlife Fitness’ senior vice president of operations, told Global News the chain is reopening 44 clubs in Ontario as of Friday with an increased cleaning plan, physical distancing, and reduced capacity.
“Our thorough cleaning protocols include a 30-minute ‘club reset’ after each hour of member activity, a ‘constantly cleaning’ philosophy with a focus on using hospital-grade cleaning solutions on high-touch areas and surfaces, and a nightly deep clean and sanitization using electrostatic disinfectant sprayers,” Sheridan said.
The gym’s website said members are encouraged to shower at home where possible, but showers will be available starting July 9.
The Life Time fitness club chain said it is adding hygiene stations throughout its gyms, and staff will deep-clean equipment and spaces. Club hours may also be adjusted for cleaning.
Smaller classes, physical distancing
Physical distancing is a vital measure in helping curb the spread of COVID-19, and gyms are adapting their floor plans to make more room.
At Anytime Fitness, locations have been refitted with social-distancing signs to promote a six-foot distance between patrons. They have also limited capacity and increased cleaning procedures.
When it comes to personal training, close contact is common, but the company said on its website that staff have developed several no-contact regimens.
Life Time stated it has increased spacing between equipment, and group fitness classes will require reservations.
Planet Fitness has temporarily removed some pieces of cardio from use to allow for physical distancing and has placed signs throughout clubs that highlight sanitization and distancing guidelines.
Concerns going back to the gym
Big box gyms say they are doing everything they can to keep their members safe, but the public should be aware that returning to spaces such as gyms carries risks, experts warn.
“If we’re going to make a list of high-risk activities, the gym would be on the upper end of that spectrum,” Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital, previously told Global News.
“We’ve got lots of people in an enclosed indoor space with high-contact surfaces, and they’re also exercising as well, perhaps expelling more breath into the air,” Bogoch said.
In facilities such as gyms, patrons are in constant contact, sharing exercise machines, and moving around to different areas, which can facilitate the spread of the virus.
“It’s just not a safe environment when we’re dealing with a respiratory infection that can be easily transmitted from person to person,” he said.
“The threshold to open gyms again is going to be high, and we’re going to need to see a lot of safeguards in place.”
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.
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