Members of Ontario's fitness industry say they're eagerly awaiting the outcome of a provincial review of COVID-19 protocols for gyms and similar facilities.
The province's associate medical officer of health said this week that the safety guidelines for gyms were being reconsidered after a large outbreak of the novel coronavirus linked to a cycling studio in Hamilton.
Jason Sheridan, the senior vice-president of operations at GoodLife Fitness, said he and his colleagues with the Fitness Industry Council of Canada would "love the opportunity" to work with public health officials to create new guidelines.
"We are very open to navigating this situation together with them and supportive of the direction we receive from these medical experts based on an evidence-based approach," said Sheridan.
"We are open to learning about the concerns surrounding gyms and offering solutions that would allow us to reopen."
More than a quarter of Hamilton's active COVID-19 cases are connected to the SPINCO cycling studio outbreak.
The city's public health unit said on Thursday that 47 positive cases were primary infections from the cycling studio, which recorded its first related case on Oct. 5.
According to Dr. Barbara Yaffe, the province's associate medical officer of health, the cycling studio followed all of the current provincial guidelines but they still weren't enough to prevent the outbreak. That sparked the current review, she said.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Health said on Thursday evening that there was no timeline for the review to be completed.
Geoff Girvitz, director of Bang Fitness in downtown Toronto, said the province's current guidelines put too much emphasis on how many people are in a fitness studio, and how closely they are standing together.
"If all we think about is risk factor in the context of aerosolized fluids, we can think about, from a common sense perspective, how that's going to flow, how that's going to move around the room," said Girvitz.
"I think it would be really helpful to have protocols based on density and airflow rather than an arbitrary number of people allowed in the space ... Right now all gyms are being painted with the same brush which is problematic on both sides of the continuum."
Gyms in Toronto, Ottawa, and Peel Region are currently closed as part of heightened restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 in those areas. Gyms in other parts of the province continue to operate.
In the densely populated Greater Toronto Area, both L.A. Fitness and GoodLife Fitness — two of the largest gym chains in Canada — asked their clients to not travel from Toronto and Peel Region to open facilities in nearby areas to work out.
Sheridan said that all GoodLife members in the hot-zone regions had their accounts frozen on Oct. 10 and are are not permitted to book workouts at clubs in surrounding regions.
Premier Doug Ford spoke out against the practice of travelling to out-of-region gyms on Thursday.
"Folks, I've just got to ask you to try and work out at home," he said. "The big fitness clubs are saying they don't want you to come there and I understand so if you can, try to work out at home."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 16, 2020.
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press