Ontario gym that relied on exemption to stay open during COVID-19 faces variant outbreak

Click to play video: 'Oakville gym that remained open is closed by COVID-19 outbreak'
Oakville gym that remained open is closed by COVID-19 outbreak
WATCH ABOVE: Halton Public Health has ordered an Oakville gym to shut down after an outbreak of COVID cases. As Sean O’Shea reports, while most fitness facilities in Ontario are complying with provincial laws to remain closed, this one had remained open. – Jul 6, 2021

An Oakville gym that refused to obey a provincial order requiring fitness facilities to stay closed has finally been temporarily shut down by public health authorities because of an outbreak of COVID-19 cases.

“We finally found the Delta virus in our gym,” Ali Siddiqui, co-owner of Muscle HQ, said in video messages on Facebook and Instagram.

Halton Region Public Health confirmed 15 cases of the Delta COVID-19 variant are associated with the gym after an outbreak was declared on June 28.

“Contact tracing for the outbreak at Muscle HQ continues as new cases outside of the initial exposure period are found. More than 400 high-risk contacts have been identified,” a public health spokesperson wrote in an email to Global News.

READ MORE: Some Ontario gym owners exploiting exception to stay open

The gym remained open following a Global News story in May at which time Siddiqui claimed that only those with medical conditions and medical notes from health professionals could use the gym facilities.

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“As long as we have a note from a professional saying they require physical exercise in a gym,” Siddiqui told Global News at the time.

A substantial number of Muscle HQ’s clientele are bodybuilders.

Some other Ontario fitness facilities have attempted to use medical exemptions as a way to stay open.

Read more: Peel officer who hugged COVID-19 protesters, accused journalist of agitating attendees reinstated

Huf Boxing Gym in Mississauga, which was originally targeted by the municipality for staying open despite the provincial orders, is one.

“They know the rules, once they open their doors they’ll be fined,” Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said in April.

Peel Regional Police and local bylaw officers attempted to enforce a closure but Huf Boxing Gym ignored the efforts and is still open.

The facility claimed through a sign on its door that it only accepts clients who have a medical need to work out at a gym.

READ MORE: Peel officer suspended after hugging COVID-19 protesters, accusing journalist of agitating attendees

In the spring, as case counts in the region were growing daily, Peel Region’s medical officer of health expressed outrage at gyms that defied the provincial rules.

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“I don’t know what part of that people are not getting or understanding. This is no joke,” Dr. Lawrence Loh said.

Meanwhile, Town of Oakville officials said officers investigated Muscle HQ on “multiple occasions” following complaints and the most recent time was on June 19.

“At that time, the gym was in compliance with the Provincial regulations under the Reopening Ontario Act,” Jim Barry, the Town’s director of municipal enforcement services, wrote in an email.

As for Muscle HQ clients, Halton Region Public Health asked all 425 who used the gym to self-isolate for 14 days after their last exposure at the facility.

Read more: As Ontario prepares to enter Step 2 of reopening, gym owners say they feel left behind

“We are urging these individuals to isolate and get tested for their own well-being as well as for any other vulnerable people they may be living with,” the public health official wrote.

The request to isolate included clients who have been fully vaccinated.

In the Facebook post, Siddiqui said none of the gym’s owners has received a paycheque in the period Muscle HQ has been open. He pleaded with patrons to continue paying their membership fees if possible.

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The gym was ordered to stay closed until July 13 and it could potentially reopen after that date.

Global News contacted representatives for Muscle HQ to ask for comment, but a response wasn’t received by the time of publication.

Click to play video: 'Gym stays open despite City of Mississauga efforts, others use law to justify seeing clients'
Gym stays open despite City of Mississauga efforts, others use law to justify seeing clients

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