'It's a reasonable ask:' Fitness centres push to be included in Step 2 of reopening
BARRIE, ONT -- Ontario is expected to enter Step 2 of its reopening plan on July 2.
Non-essential retailers can expand to 25 per cent capacity, personal care services can open the doors, and large indoor religious services or ceremonies can resume.
But under the province's Step 2 reopening plan, indoor fitness centres can't welcome back clients, frustrating business owners and fitness enthusiasts alike.
Fitness centres have to hold off reopening until Ontario enters Step 3.
Barrie resident Katie Schmidt says her mental and physical well-being have been impacted with gyms being shuttered for months.
"The gym is my outlet," Schmidt says. "It's where I channel all that stress and anxiety and depression."
Staff and members at GoodLife have requested that the province allow the fitness facilities to open in Step 2 rather than waiting for Step 3.
"This affects tens of thousands of people who work in our industry and millions of people who are working out in various clubs across the province," says Jane Riddell of GoodLife. "It's a reasonable ask."
GoodLife wants to open at 25 per cent capacity with mask requirements, physical distancing and cleaning protocols in place.
The fitness facility attributes a successful vaccination rollout, and a decline in COVID-19 case counts as reasons for the change.
After sending several request proposals, the company says it is optimistic its request will be granted.
Local health officials are proceeding with caution.
"I do ask them to hang in there and see how the province does in the second stage," says Dr. Colin Lee of the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.
MPP Doug Downey says he understands the frustration but emphasizes relying on advice from medical health officials.
"I know that we are so close to coming out of the pandemic," Downey says. "There has to be discussions with the chief medical officer of health and the public health units."
On Tuesday, it was announced that Ontario would be able to enter Step 3 weeks ahead of schedule after meeting vaccination targets.
Under Step 3, indoor activities such as dining, sports, casinos, events and gatherings would be allowed.
With files from Amanda Hicks