After weeks of an imposed public health lockdown amid the COVID-19 crisis, the Fitness Industry Council of Canada (FIC) is calling on the province to work with Manitoba gym owners to reopen.
The group said the recent news of city gyms remaining open for employees shows facilities can operate in a safe manner and can offer benefits like improved mental health for Manitobans.
FIC’s Manitoba Coalition Leader, Dino Camiré, told 680 CJOB that the fitness industry is looking for an equal playing field – which begins with an open dialogue and clear communication with public health.
“If other industries, like retail, can open with certain restrictions, we know that from the data across the globe now that if we’re held to the same standard, that our facilities are actually safer than almost any other industry,” said Camiré.
“We have pre-established cleaning routines, we have built-in systems for contact tracing, we can book in times — you’re not booking in a time to go shop at Costco where they have a 250 person capacity.”
At this point, gyms are not under consideration to reopen when Manitoba’s public health orders are set to be updated by the end of this week.
Camiré, who also owns a gym in St. Vital, said all his organization is looking for is a chance to plead their case.
“We know in provinces like Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia — our counterparts in those provinces are having conversations with the appropriate positions in government and in public health.
“That’s all we ask here — to have that same dialogue so that we can create this partnership.”
The province’s chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, clarified in a statement Wednesday why gyms were still allowed to be open in civic workplaces.
Roussin explained that the public health order doesn’t apply to government.
“Although public health orders cannot technically apply to the operations of other levels of government, we expect them to follow the spirit and the intent of those orders,” he said.
“With respect to fitness facilities, a public health inspector provided information to the City of Winnipeg that was incomplete and lacked context.”
Following outcry, the city has since closed its gyms, aside from those used by first responders.
Gym owner Megan Gabert, who owns and operates two Orangetheory Fitness locations in Winnipeg, told Global News on Tuesday she’s disappointed but not surprised that gyms weren’t mentioned in the province’s proposed changes to restrictions.
Gabert said gyms could reopen with proper safety guidelines in place.
“Before we closed, we were at 12 people max., masks throughout the entire workout, two metres of distancing the entire time you’re there,” she said.
“I get closer for longer (periods of time) when I’m picking up my produce at the grocery store.”