Ontario vaccination rates are increasing and a new reopening framework is in place. But the fitness industry is pushing to be included in earlier stages.
The Ontario fitness industry has faced more prolonged closures than other province, in fact, more than almost any other location in the world. With some areas of the province having been closed for 12 of the last 15 months and subsidies due to expire in September, the economic situation for gyms is at a crucial tipping point. They need to open and to start building back revenues. If not, the industry could face even more closures than have already been seen.
It is difficult for Ontario gym owners to understand their present situation when they see how fitness has been better managed in other provinces. While many gyms are grateful to be opening outdoor fitness this week, this does not benefit most clubs and, for the most part, this does not mean welcoming members back.
Reopening gyms at such a late date continues to send the message that gyms are higher risk locations, despite data from FIC members and from the government that demonstrates the opposite. Since the onset of the pandemic, FIC- member fitness facilities have had more than 15 million check-ins, when they’ve been allowed to be open, without one single incident of COVID-19 community transmission.
Gym re-opening plans in other provinces have respected relevant data and have included conversations with the fitness industry. In Ontario we have not had the same opportunity to consult with the government despite ongoing efforts from the FIC Ontario Coalition and gym owners.
Ontario is far behind other provinces in its plans to reopen the fitness industry:
FIC has asked the government to look at provincial comparisons (see graphic) and to explain why similar considerations are not being taken in Ontario.
- If non-essential retail businesses can be open with masking and percentage capacity protocols, why can gyms not do the same?
- If data and operational plans demonstrate that exercising at gyms is safe, how can gyms be reworked into the reopening plans?
- Why has the fitness industry not been consulted?
Even with the current numbers of COVID-19 patients in Ontario, it is hard to justify being weeks or months behind other provinces. The daily number of cases is dropping drastically each week as vaccination rates increase.
Lost in all of this is the impact of gym closures on the health of Ontarians. Some people can find their fitness needs met outdoors or at home, but many more people need gym equipment and guidance from a qualified fitness professional to help them stay active.
As we turn our attention to recovery, the fitness industry in Ontario is asking to be a part of the solution to the health and economic recovery of our province. To do this, the asks are simple and reasonable:
- Consult with the fitness industry and allow us to show our and provide input to help gyms open in a safe and responsible way
- Include gyms in Stages 1 and 2 of the reopening plan with guidelines similar to those in non-essential retail
We are at a crucial point in time. The Ontario government is making adjustments to the reopening plan based on feedback from citizens, lobbying efforts and comparisons to the approaches of other provinces.
If we wait until the end of July, as in the current plan, the health risks for Ontarians and for the fitness industry will continue to escalate. Together we can help our industry open earlier and help with the health and economic recovery as we move beyond this pandemic.
We ask that gym owners and fitness professionals in Ontario help us push our message and ensure that politicians help advocate for us. Please contact your Ontario MPP or other government officials, share the above infographic, and like/share/comment on our Instagram posts at @fic.ontario.