Toronto Mayor John Tory says he has asked his public health officials to try to draw up a scenario where gyms could reopen in a limited capacity sometime in November, but Ontario’s health minister says gyms remain a problem vector for COVID-19 infection.
Tory told CP24 he has asked Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa to develop a guideline where gyms could reopen when the initial 28-day restriction period imposed by the Ford government ends.
“There must be a way, and I will look for a way, working with he province and our Chief Medical Officer of Health to find a way to ‘doors open safely’ the gyms – so we can say ‘what’s it going to take to get them open’.”
He pointed out that in its original request to the province in early October when infection was spreading, Toronto only asked for group gym activity to end, not an outright shutdown of all gyms.
Gyms in Toronto, Peel and Ottawa, including exercise spaces in apartments and condo towers, have been closed since Oct. 10 when those regions reverted to a modified Stage 2 of reopening.
But there has been much pushback, especially after the Ford government allowed dance studios to reopen in those areas on Oct. 19.
Many gym users and owners questioned that decision, as both involve physical activity in an indoor setting where aerosol transmission of the virus is possible.
Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott told reporters Wednesday that gyms are risky places when COVID-19 is circulating in the community.
“For the gyms that are located in areas that have modified Stage 2, we have been advised by public health doctors that that is a place where transmission is happening,” she said. “So we are not going to change that regulation or rule – it will stay in place for 28 days and then we will see where they are.”
She said that Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams is working on new measures to protect people in gyms that are still operating elsewhere in the province.
Tory said he was “very sympathetic” to the plight of gym owners and their employees.
“We have to go through that checklist one by one by one and find ways if we possibly can reopen these places safely, but safely is underlined five times,” he said.
Toronto said it had nearly 3,100 cases of active novel coronavirus infection earlier this week, with more than 130 people receiving treatment in hospital.