UPDATE: 11:22 a.m.
The gyms in Kamloops defying public health orders by staying open must close, B.C.’s top doctor said Friday.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry was asked during a news conference on Friday about the defiant Kamloops gyms.
“Gyms must close during this period,” she said, suggesting fitness facilities transition to remote class instruction.
“Right now, we’re in a place of real uncertainty with a lot of transmission in younger people in the demographic that is really connected to their gyms.”
ORIGINAL STORY: 4 a.m.
Six Kamloops gyms are defying the latest provincial health orders and vowing to stay open, and they're hoping to convince other B.C. fitness facilities to follow suit.
No Limits Fitness, Gold’s Gym, Anytime Fitness, Lady’s Only, Strength Camp and Planet Woman were all open on Thursday, the day Dr. Bonnie Henry’s latest orders came into effect requiring all gyms and nightclubs to temporarily shutter. Henry said the measures are an effort to curb the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, which is causing case counts to skyrocket across Canada.
“We know that these, unfortunately, have been places where transmission events have happened and have spread out to people in the community,” Henry said while announcing the new measures on Tuesday.
Justin Grover and Darren Maywood beg to differ. The two co-owners of No Limits Fitness told Castanet Kamloops they are speaking on behalf of five of the defiant gyms — all but Planet Woman.
Grover and Maywood said they’re not aware of a single case of COVID-19 transmission having taken place in their gym or any other in Kamloops. They said local gyms have been following COVID-19 protocols to the letter and they don’t think it’s fair fitness facilities have been ordered to close.
“It’s a huge disappointment, because for 22 months we’ve compiled to everything they’ve said and, in some cases, even overly complied with our sanitation protocols,” Grover said.
“We were the first ones to have barriers up in our facility. We were the first ones to have individual spray bottles that people use for sanitation. We even have our rags on a rotation schedule where they go through a bleaching cycle.”
Maywood said the announcement on Tuesday caught local gyms by surprise.
“There was no warning for anybody,” he said.
“It was just the announcement came out and then we have to close tomorrow at midnight.”
According to Maywood, the latest order was a bridge too far.
“There were times earlier on through this pandemic where it’s based on science and the information available at the time, you know, limiting class sizes, putting partitions up, doing all the things that made sense,” he said.
“But at this point, with the protocols [already in place], with no outbreaks or nothing that we’re aware of locally, let alone provincially — it just makes no sense.”
Exposure events and case clusters have been linked to gyms and fitness facilities a number of times in B.C. during the pandemic dating back to the summer of 2020, after they were allowed to reopen with pandemic protocols in place.
Grover and Maywood, who said they are both double-vaccinated and not anti-vax, said gym closures at this time of year and at this point in the pandemic will do more harm than good. They said many of their clients depend on exercise for their mental health.
Maywood said No Limits has alcoholic and drug-addicted clients who fell off the wagon when gyms were closed earlier on. Grover said he picked up a suicidal client from Royal Inland Hospital during the previous closure.
“We get to see it on a daily basis,” Maywood said. “We see how it affects people’s lives. To just shut that off at this time of year, it just makes zero sense.”
Grover and Maywood said they’ve heard from dozens of gyms across B.C. since word of their plans to defy the order to close was posted on social media on Wednesday. The men said they’re hoping to find strength in numbers — and they want to see Victoria reverse course and allow gyms to remain open.
Grover said he has a lawyer “guiding us through this” — and he said he’s willing to fight.
“We’re going to take this as far as we have to until someone addresses us in a fair manner,” he said.
“All we’re asking for is transparency and guidelines.”
Grover said his understanding of the process is that No Limits will likely be able to remain in operation even if Interior Health or other provincial officials visit to shut them down.
“They have to give us a warning first, then they have to give us a fine, then they have to get a court injunction,” he said.
“Depending on the timeline, by the time the courts hear this, that order might no longer be in effect.”
Castanet Kamloops asked Interior Health for information about the process late on Thursday and has not heard back.
Grover refused to comment when asked whether he's been in touch with anyone at Interior Health.
The public health orders requiring gyms and nightclubs to close will be in effect until at least Jan. 18.