Health order activists claim 'a hundred gyms set to open'

Online activists claim defiance to closure of gym and fitness studios has grown

A West Kelowna gym owner behind a high-profile protest against the current public health restrictions, claims one hundred gyms and fitness centres across B.C. are set to open on Tuesday in defiance of the latest temporary Public Health Order (PHO).

Brian Mark from Iron Energy Gym spoke on a live social media chat Monday afternoon.

He said a movement, called Operation Green Light, had galvanized several gyms and fitness studios, including yoga studios, to take a unified public stance against the closures.

“You’re seeing a shift in the narrative… because we are all using our collective voices,” Mark said. “There are a hundred gyms across B.C. opening tomorrow, all at the same time. Not only are we opening, but it’s also a commitment to never close.”

Iron Energy Gym has been fined for refusing to close. It has argued gyms and fitness centres are crucial venues for the physical and mental health needs of the public and should be declared essential services.

Some yoga studios in Kelowna have also defied the order issued on Dec. 22.

“It doesn’t have to be this or that, it can be this and that. We can work on our physical and mental health and we can also make sure our gyms are working safely,” Mark said.

Earlier this month, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said gyms were ‘amplifiers’ of the coronavirus because of the highly socially connected demographic that use them. However, she gave no specific data on how gyms spread the virus, which has frustrated business owners.

Henry indicated last week she may relax some restrictions and an update will be provided Tuesday. For the moment, orders on gatherings and events, and food- and liquor-serving premises, have been extended, including restrictions on gyms and fitness centres.

In the meantime, Mark said part of Operation Green Light’s focus is to get the public to sign an online petition to be forwarded to elected officials.

The petition reads, in part:

We, the small, independently-owned and operated health studios and communities of British Columbia have banded together to challenge the mandate released December 22 that closed our doors and to be reviewed on January 18. Restaurants, liquor stores, casinos, malls, NHL games and gyms located in work places have all remained open.

To be clear, if this closure is to extend past January 18, it is a death sentence for all small fitness, yoga and wellness businesses. We've surveyed dozens of fitness studio owners--all on the cusp of closing down--and, complying with this new arbitrary mandate will be the nail in the coffin.

It’s time we make exercise essential. Gyms, yoga studios and fitness are essential. We should have the right to exercise.

Latest COVID numbers

B.C.'s latest update shows 22 COVID-related deaths over the weekend, four of which were in the Interior Health region.

Hospitalizations across the province were up to 819 on Monday, 173 more than Friday's number. A total of 99 people were in critical care, an increase of four.

In IH there were 360 new cases Monday, 52 fewer than Friday, but hospitalizations rose by 18 to 90. A total of 13 people were receiving critical care, one more than on Friday.

Published 2022-01-17 by Glenn Hicks

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