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PHO expected to keep COVID restrictions in place

End date for order has been removed, Global TV reports
virus

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry appears to have set the table to keep the latest round of COVID-relate restrictions in place.

Global TV reporter Richard Zussman tweeted today that the order issued before Christmas has been updated with the end time of 12:01 a.m. Tuesday removed.

"The order is now in place indefinitely keeping gyms and bars closed," Zussman added.

No official announcement has been made. Henry and health minister Adrian Dix are to hold a press conference tomorrow.

Dean Coleman, co-owner of The Movement fitness studio in College Heights, said he would be disappointed but not surprised if the step has indeed been taken. 

Coleman said he's heard talk of gym owners defying the order "but we're not going to do that."

He also anticipates the order, which came into effect on December 22, will remain in place for another month.

Coleman said the studio qualifies for a scant $2,000 in support from the provincial government's recently-revived grant program to help ease the pain for affected businesses and is worried the federal government's rent relief program won't be enough because it is based on a comparison of revenue for the same months in 2021 rather than pre-COVID levels.

"I have the utmost admiration for our whole health system...I want that to function and if we're doing our part to mitigate the pressure that could be the good story to come out of it, I guess, but there is no way the government is going to pay us enough money," Coleman said.

With the doors closed, the studio has relied on live streaming to generate revenue. Some clients have also continued to pay their monthly membership fee to help keep the studio afloat.

Coleman said noted the order came into effect at a time when gyms and studios are typically at their busiest.

"January and February, they're big sign up months so it's kind of a double whammy," Coleman said.

His bigger concern is whether clients will return once the order has been lifted. 

"I can suck it up for a month or two but the rebound is what is really concerning...how long will it be before you can get even close to pre-COVID numbers," Coleman said. "It's one thing to be closed for a month or two, it's another thing to spend the next year trying to get a new community built up again because so many people have gone and they're not coming back. I know, I've polled them and I've interviewed them."

YMCA of Northern B.C. CEO Amanda Alexander took a diplomatic tone when asked if an official announcement should have been issued ahead of tomorrow's press conference.

"I wouldn't want to be in their shoes and I think they have tremendous decisions to make and are having to weigh out different factors," Alexander said. "I will say from an organizational perspective, on the receiving end, it's really challenging when you could be opening within a day or attempting to arrange staffing schedules in order to be able to support that.

"You're also trying to understand what the long-term implications are for us, being a not-for-profit and a charity. There aren't endless dollars to support closures and retention of staff. We're up against very complicated decisions without having any kind of frame of reference with an order expiring tomorrow."

As a non-profit, she said the YMCA-NBC has not qualified for any provincial government support. As for federal help, Alexander said that if the YMCA-NBC was a "distinct entity unto itself" it would have qualified. "But because we're a multi-service agency, a drop in one particular area isn't reflective of our whole operations," she said.

Alexander said the fitness side has been "decimated" and that "impacts our long-term capacity to weather our way through COVID and come out the other side."