Some smaller Alberta gyms want to open earlier in COVID-19 relaunch

A growing number of gyms are advocating to open up sooner than what the Alberta government’s relaunch schedule outlines.

An online petition has been gaining a lot of signatures from both clients and fitness club owners.

They are asking Alberta Health officials to consider allowing smaller boutique-style fitness studios to open in Stage 2 rather than Stage 3.

Nathan Amor, owner of F45 in Inglewood, said smaller facilities can control possible spread of the virus.

“When I look at what was included in Phase 2 — movie theaters? I feel like if you go to a movie and someone has COVID and it gets passed around, how do you know who was in the movie theater that day? How do you go back and contact trace?

“Whereas if that happens in my studio, we can tell you exactly who was in here, when they were in here, and how to get a hold of them,” Amor said.

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Amor insists the smaller fitness studios are much different than full gyms or recreation centers. They can limit class sizes and have better control of sanitization, he says.

“We are able to watch each member and be able to closely monitor how things are being santized versus a big box chain, having someone going behind each member doing their workout cleaning up after them,” Amor said.

“In this small space we can watch that and make sure it’s getting done.”

Amor said his studio has been surviving with some virtual classes, but he worries waiting much longer to open could cripple the business.

“It would end up on life support.”

“That’s why we are pushing not to be lumped in with everything in Phase 3, which is arenas and sporting events and that’s all a big question mark. Is that September? October? Next year?”

Petition signers say they can limit people per class and hope exceptions can be considered to keep their doors open.

Brock Shepherd is a member of F45. He said being a stay-at-home dad, it’s been frustrating not to be able to get into a fitness routine at his neighborhood gym.

“It’s delayed any progress I wanted. For it to have to close was disappointing,” Shepherd said.

He supports the re-opening, despite potential risks.

“I would feel 10 times safer coming here than I would going to the grocery store,” Shepherd said.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Health Officer, said there is a lot of consideration going into the re-opening phases, and no changes will be immediately made.

“We can’t guarantee that there will be any chance to shift between stages because we have to take so many different things into account,” she said.

“The way forward in that would be for those business interested to make sure they are thinking through how they would make sure to keep patrons and their staff safe, but no guarantee can be made.”

Amor will submit the petition and a formal letter to the Alberta health minister for consideration.

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