A group of dancers and studio owners are asking the province to re-consider its restriction on in-person dance classes in the wake of a recent jump in COVID-19 cases in the Lower Mainland.
Their online petition, which had a little more than 5,000 signatures as of Tuesday morning, takes issue with the latest public health order banning group physical activities at dance studios and other indoor facilities, but not in schools and gyms.
“Although dance is not a sport, it is a physical activity that we, as owners, have managed to provide safely while maintaining social distancing since June 1st,” writes Denise Akester in the petition.
“It is unfair for us to be targeted. We have suffered from March onwards as we have navigated COVID protocols with no overseeing sports or arts organization, with decreased participation due to reluctant parents and little rent relief as it was left optional for our landlords. We have worked tirelessly to keep dance spaces safe so children can return and continue what they love.”
Saturday’s order banned all social gatherings with anyone not part of one’s immediate household, as well as all indoor group physical activities such as spin classes, dance classes and group fitness, for two weeks within the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health authorities.
On top of having to address the public’s confusion on what exactly constitutes a social gathering, health officials have also acknowledged mistakes in their initial guidelines on indoor group physical activities.
“The guidance and safety requirements that we have had in place for spin studios and yoga studios and group activities within gyms — they are not adequate to protect us when we have this virus circulating at levels that we do in the community now in Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said in a news conference Monday.
“This is not a reflection on those businesses. It is a reflection that we are continuing to learn about this virus and we now know indoor situations. That is a situation where this virus can spread very rapidly and we have seen that happen in studios, in dance studios, in gyms across this province, but particularly recently in the Lower Mainland.”
People can still go to a gym and work out alone or in a one-on-one situation with safety protocols in place.
The province has said new guidance will be coming out soon and will be posted on the BC Centre for Disease Control website. Operators will then need to create a new plan and submit for review.
“I know many businesses have already reached out and are keen to get underway,” Henry said Monday.
“But you need to hold back on those specific activities until we have the right safety measures to provide you with that advice and we know that that means adequate space and distance and measures to ensure that we’re preventing rapid spread of this virus.”