B.C. dance studios, yoga classes, other indoor activities forced to suspend operations

The B.C. government has asked dance studios, yoga classes and several other indoor group physical fitness activities to temporarily suspend their operations.

The Ministry of Health said the affected businesses will be allowed to resume indoor activities once new safety guidance is developed – unlike spin classes, hot yoga and high intensity interval training, which have been forced to cease in-person operations indefinitely.

"All other indoor group fitness activities are only on pause until public health develops new guidance," a spokesperson told CTV News in an email.

Apart from dance studios and regular yoga classes, the temporary closure affects martial arts studios, pilates classes, strength and conditioning activities, and cheerleading.

Business owners say they feel blindsided by the news.

Ryan Diaz, who owns Diaz Combat Sports in Vancouver, said he only found out about the rules when someone submitted a question through his gym’s website.

“Somebody messaged us in the chat and said hey, are you open today?”

There was also a link to a government website that stated all indoor group fitness classes need to suspend operations temporarily.

Diaz says his gym has been shut down several times during the pandemic, and each time it costs him financially and also in terms of being able to market and grow his membership.

“I understand the hard job Bonnie Henry has,” he told CTV News, adding that “communication would be good to help us out.”

A North Shore dance studio owner echoed that thought, saying communication has been lacking – especially in the last several weeks.

“"in the last three weeks we've had to close our programs, go virtual, semi-virtual, to open to back to closed again. It’s just been all over the place,” said Dylan Steyns of the North Shore Academy of Dance

On Nov. 7, a regional order closed indoor group fitness classes in the Lower Mainland. In the days after, some businesses obtained approval from Vancouver Coastal Health to reopen. Those orders were rescinded early last week, though the province posted a notice online on Nov. 19 that dance, martial arts, and cheerleading classes could stay open pending new rules.

That language changed five days later – to say they should be shut down temporarily.

Steyns said he’s shocked.

“We’re back to the situation of getting lots of information on social media. I seem to be getting information from other directors, but nothing official yet, no emails," he said.

Diaz said his facility has tens of thousands of dollars worth of upgrades to the ventilation system to improve safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. He had just re-opened on Monday and said there was a class happening when he read the website. Despite the costs, Diaz added he’s willing to shut down whenever required.

“They can simply email us, call us, anything just direct contact...we still haven't heard from them.”

That updated guidance is expected to be available this week, according to the ministry.

The government said facilities "will not need to seek permission from local health authorities before opening," but that there will be increased inspections to ensure everyone is complying with the new guidelines.

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