Decisions about what constitutes “safe” indoor fitness activities will be left to gym owners and their customers, the Alberta health minister said.
As part of stage 2 of the province’s stimulus plan, announced on Monday, gyms and fitness centers were allowed to reopen for “low-intensity” activities.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro said on Tuesday there was some confusion over what activities would be allowed and tried to clarify that.
“If you run a gym, you can be open,” he said. “It’s perfectly within the rules.”
Shandro said “low intensity” activities are those that do not significantly increase a person’s breathing rate, and that gyms and patrons will be allowed to make such decisions on their own.
“We rely on owners and customers to exercise good judgment, to demonstrate good faith,” Shandro said at a press conference.
Alberta reported two more deaths and 257 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. Hospitals were treating 261 patients for the disease, including 54 in intensive care beds.
The province has identified 35 other cases of more contagious variants of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours. Testing has now confirmed 484 cases of a variant first identified in the UK and eight of a variant first identified in South Africa.
Successful BC model
Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said physical activity and fitness play an important role in overall physical and mental health, which is why the province wanted to find ways to reopen in safe gyms and fitness centers for “low risk” individual activities.
She said the province believed operators were committed to providing safe environments to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“We also heard from some stakeholders that the BC model that uses a distinction between high and low intensity exercise has been successful in that province,” she said.
“We know that COVID-19 is spread by droplets, and when we are engaged in high intensity activities, defined … as activities where our respiratory rate quickens, we know that we are producing more droplets and increasing the risk of spread of the virus. “
WATCH | Health Minister explains province’s approach to indoor fitness restrictions
British Columbia has taken a similar approach, she said, and COVID-19 numbers there have been relatively stable.
“With that in mind, we looked for ways to open facilities for Albertans that would allow low intensity activities in gyms, and we chose to implement an approach similar to that in British Columbia,” he said. she declared.
“This allows operators to tailor their programs to clients to calibrate their services on activities that will improve fitness while minimizing the risk of COVID-19. “
No attendance limit
Rather than using attendance caps, such as those put in place for restaurants and retail stores, gyms will limit their capacity by using physical distancing protocols that require a minimum of three meters between patrons, said Hinshaw.
“This approach still limits the capacity of the facilities for safety, but is more flexible and responsive to the spacing of individual training areas, rather than a specific number,” she said.
“I know that finding ways to stay active when gyms are closed can be more difficult during the cold winter months. Fortunately, the days are getting warmer and longer, which provides more opportunities for everyone to go out to exercise and get some fresh air.
Current health measures allow outdoor physical activity in groups of no more than 10 people, Hinshaw said, provided people are at least two meters apart.
Alberta Health Services will work closely with gyms and fitness centers to provide education and support, she said.
“Sanctions would only be applied for intentional and repeated breaches of safety rules.”
Alberta eased some public health restrictions on Monday, marking the start of Stage 2 of the province’s stimulus package.
Libraries are now allowed to reopen with 15% of fire code capacity, and fitness centers can resume low-intensity individual and group workouts for adults.
Alberta implemented Stage 1 of its relaunch on February 8, when restaurants and bars were allowed to reopen for domestic service.