Gyms can start reopening Thursday, following Tuesday’s announcement from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. However, the decision to close gyms in December 2021 left many owners frustrated.
Port Moody gym owner Samantha Agtarap is one of them.
“The new restrictions are the things we have always done. We always had more than seven square metres of distance and always had good ventilation so, it’s frustrating that they chose to take a very reactive approach rather than a proactive approach in December,” she said.
As per the new restrictions, people need to be seven square metres apart and masks are worn in all common spaces and during exercise, if possible. But Agtarap said they have been following these protocols for the past two years.
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Several petitions to reopen gyms are circulating but what makes Agtarap’s different from others is their demand for data transparency.
The petition “Show us the data or let gyms in B.C. reopen” requests the provincial and regional governments to provide data that can prove COVID-19 transmission in gyms.
“Our main goal was to get some transparency to see the data they base their decision on and if we couldn’t see the data then they should allow gyms to open.”
Samantha and her partner Anthony Agtarap have filed a Freedom of Information request with all regional health authorities, privacy commissioner and chief health officer to provide accumulative studies of all settings where COVID-19 cases have led to hospitalizations or deaths.
But getting this information is a lengthy process. It can take up to 30 business days for the data to be processed and in some cases, the data may not be shared at all. Anthony said this entire process is frustrating.
“People should know where the cases are coming from in their community rather than vilifying a particular industry and not providing any data for it. It should be easy to provide [this data] especially if they were contact-tracing throughout the whole thing,” he said.
They created the petition on Tuesday, December 21, 2021, and saw an overwhelming response. Within 12 hours, the petition had garnered 20,000 signatures which Anthony said shows public support and the need for local government to be transparent.
According to the couple, the government’s reaction in December was arbitrary and reactive, resulting in stress for gym owners, loss of revenue and unemployment.
“They say it’s a difficult decision, it’s not. If they have the data, it should be easy. But if you don’t then yes, it’s difficult,” said Anthony.
They added that gym owners across B.C. are in contact with each other and none of them have reportedly had COVID-19 transmissions in the past two years. However, a COVID-19 outbreak was reported at a fitness centre in Saskatchewan.