Coronavirus: Gyms, rec centres brace for word on whether COVID restrictions will continue

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Coronavirus: Gyms, rec centres brace for word on whether COVID restrictions will continue
Coronavirus: Gyms, rec centres brace for word on whether COVID restrictions will continue

Clients at Forge Training in Victoria may be left out in the cold a little longer if provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry follows through with plans to extend the closing of gyms, fitness centres, bars and other facilities.

On Monday afternoon, the province removed Tuesday as the end time for the public health order it issued in late December, closing bars and gyms and limiting theatres and sports venues to 50 per cent capacity. It’s expected to provide an update during a media briefing scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

There was expectation early Monday that some of the restrictions may be relaxed, but that hope dwindled by afternoon as the province reported 22 deaths, three of which are in Island Health, and 819 people in hospital related to COVID, including 99 in intensive care. On Friday, there were 646 hospitalizations, including 95 in intensive care.

Within Island Health, there were 60 people in hospital with COVID-19 on Monday, including 10 in intensive care.

If restrictions are not relaxed, clients at Forge Training will have to continue to get their workouts in the fresh air.

The seven-year-old gym, which moved to a spot in the 900 block of Johnson Street in November, now has a 700-square-foot patio where clients have been able to get in full workouts while abiding by public health orders.

Tina Derix, one of the owners of the Forge, said they opened the outdoor training facility in January so some of their clients could maintain their fitness and a sense of normalcy during the tougher restrictions.

“It’s about more than just paying the bills,” said Derix. “We wanted to support people in the community. We have a lot of members that really depend on [a workout] to help support their mental health and just getting through COVID in general. So we want to be there and help them do that.”

Derix said about six clients can work out at a time in the limited outdoor space, while staff and trainers ferry equipment between the gym and outside, sanitizing it between trips.

The space has allowed the gym to keep most of its 30 employees and contract trainers at work.

And while the workout patio has allowed the gym to keep its lights on, Derix said she would much rather that Henry announce relaxation of the restrictions and allow the gym to get back to business as usual.

“That would be huge — then all of a sudden we can get all our members coming back, which means we get to start paying the bills again,” she said. “We’re more than happy to work with whatever additional protocols needs to be in place so we can be safe — that’s our main priority too. We want people to be safe and stay healthy.”

If restrictions were relaxed, The Forge had planned to reopen on Jan. 19, with an extra day to put in place whatever new measures are required.

Derix said as many of their stations are freeweight-driven, extra space is already built into the layout of the gym and they have decided to maintain a booking system they instituted earlier in the pandemic, so they may be ahead of the game.

“So we’re kind of lucky — that kind of stuff is all set up already, but you never know what they will say [Tuesday]. All we can do is be as flexible as possible,” she said.

That was a common refrain around the gym community Monday.

City of Victoria spokesman Bill Eisenhauer said Crystal Pool will continue to follow Henry’s direction, whatever they might be.

“If she opens gyms completely or with protocols, like making a booking time, limits on numbers and masks, we would open up,” he said, noting the gym at Crystal Pool remains closed while the centre, the pool and some programs are still running.

In Saanich, Tiana Solares, senior manager for recreation, said if the current order suspending weight-room access and fitness programs changes, the district’s four recreation centres will be able to reopen those services within two days.

In the meantime, many programs and services like swimming, use of sport courts, ice skating and classes remain open to the vaccinated public at the rec centres.

University of Victoria spokeswoman Karen Johnston said the school’s gyms would be ready to open within a day if restrictions are relaxed or lifted.

High-profile gyms like Goodlife and the YM/YWCA both say on their websites that they remain closed awaiting news on the health orders.

Performances booked for the McPherson Playhouse and Royal Theatre in January, which include the Snowed-In Comedy Tour and the Victoria Symphony, were planned for 50 per cent capacity and won’t be affected by any extension of the restrictions. The theatre said it will await further instruction following the Tuesday briefing to see if other shows will be affected.

The province reported 5,625 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend, including 681 in Island Health.

There are now 2,068 active cases on the Island, down from 3,821 active cases recorded a week ago.

Eight new health-care facility outbreaks have been announced, for a total of 50 in the province. Island Health has announced five new outbreaks — Salvation Army Sunset Lodge, James Bay Care Centre, The Heights at Mt. View, Luther Court and Selkirk Village Assisted Living — for a total of 13.

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