Ford defends decision to reopen dance studios in COVID-19 hot spots, says government will 'look into' other boutique fitness facilities
People enter an Ontario LA Fitness centre during the COVID-19 pandemic on Friday, October 2, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Published Tuesday, October 20, 2020 7:26AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, October 20, 2020 4:54PM EDT
Premier Doug Ford is defending his government’s decision to allow dance studios to reopen in Ontario’s COVID-19 hot spots, even as some boutique fitness facility operators cry foul over what they say is a double standard.
Dance studios were initially ordered to close along with all other fitness facilities in the regions of Ontario moved back into a modified version of Stage 2 but on Tuesday the province formally amended its emergency orders to allow them to operate so long as dancers are pre-registered for classes and maintain physical distancing.
In a statement, the province said that the change “recognizes that dance styles such as ballet, hip hop, and ballroom, can still be taught and practised safely when certain public health measures are followed, similar to other permitted activities, such as cheerleading and gymnastics.”
The province, however, did not provide a similar exemption for other fitness facilities that offer classes. It also said that dance class that do not meet the specified criteria, including Zumba, will continue to be prohibited.
Speaking with reporters during his regular briefing on Tuesday, Ford said that it made sense to allow dance studios to reopen due to the fact that they use a “cohort” model that isn’t “much different” from the one utilized public schools.
He did say that he would “look into” other boutique fitness facilities that offer classes but he noted that it would be akin to comparing “apples and oranges” to automatically lump them in with dance studios.
“How it was explained to me was very simple. These groups are coming in different groups into the boutique fitness areas compared to a dance studio that is there for teaching and they have a cohort, if you want co call it that, compared to the fitness studios,” he said. “I don’t think you can compare the dance studios with certain students over and over again to fitness areas.”
Dance studios, along with gyms, fitness centres, movie theatres and indoor dining were ordered to shut down in Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa on Oct. 10 and in York Region on Oct. 20 amid a rising number of COVID-19 cases.
In an interview with CTV News Toronto on Tuesday, Ontario Independent Fitness Studio Association director Alex Kucharski said that he was “shocked, angry and confused” when he heard that the rules were being loosened to allow dance studios to operate but not other class-based facilities like his – F45 fitness studio in Richmond Hill.
“We offer the same service as a dance studio. At the end of the day they are doing aerobic indoor activities which is the same thing that fitness studios are offering,” he said. “Members come in at the same class time pretty much every day. Of course there is some flexibility but generally speaking you are seeing the same group of people in each class just like you would in a cohort education classroom.”
On Tuesday, Ford said that he is doing “everything” he can to “make sure we get these places reopened as quickly as possible,” though he was non-committal on whether that could include exemptions for some facilities similar to the one granted to dance studios.
“Don’t get me wrong we are looking into the boutique fitness centres but then the next question as we move forward will be how about the other fitness centres and then it keeps going and going and going,” he said.