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Looming requirement to ask people for vaccine status worries Tri-City yoga, fitness studio owners

Tri-City fitness businesses, gyms and yoga studios will be asking for proof of vaccination against COVID-19 starting Monday (Sept. 13).
Starting Monday, Sept. 13 you'll have to provide proof of vaccine status to visit a gym, pool, yoga or fitness studio.

Tri-City fitness businesses, gyms and yoga studios will be asking for proof of vaccination against COVID-19 starting Monday (Sept. 13).

But some owners are worried about the extra responsibility of ensuring vaccination status and how it will be perceived by clients or people who are unhappy about the province’s new requirement.

In fact, the few small business owners who agreed to speak to the Tri-City News asked their names not be mentioned although they had no plans to skirt the rules and risk a $2,300 fine.

“I’m not really thrilled about having to enforce it. I feel it’s a big responsibility for a small business although I completely understand it,” said one fitness studio owner.

According to the B.C. government, businesses, including smaller fitness and yoga studios, will be required to verify that people have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

On Oct. 24, they’ll have to verify their clients are fully vaccinated. 

Failure to follow the new provincial health order may result in a fine, with the requirement in place until Jan. 31, 2022, and the possibility of extension.

While the majority of Tri-City residents are double vaxxed – 81.4 per cent average according to the latest available data – there is much concern about the proof of vaccine requirement, including concerns raised on social media and protests in downtown Vancouver.

The sensitive nature of the topic makes it challenging for small businesses to openly challenge their clients on the issue.

“Some plan on not enforcing it, there are consequences of a $2,000-$3,000 fines,” the fitness studio owner said, “Small businesses weathered this storm, I can’t endure another shut down.”

The process is a two-step verification: businesses can scan a customer’s QR code or perform a visual inspection, then they have to match the details with the person’s ID.

Returning clients can email their vaccine status to the business or studio, and while this is a practical solution to constantly checking someone’s ID, it poses some ethical considerations, the business owner said.

“I don’t like to be responsible for that information either.”

There is also some lack of clarity on what type of fitness studios would be required to do a proof of verification check. 

It seems yoga studios might be exempt, but they aren’t, so even yoga practitioners will have to show proof of verification before starting their poses.

It’s a requirement one Coquitlam yoga studio business owner said she will follow to avoid a hefty fine.

However, the owner agreed the responsibility is significant, as is the duty to ask someone about their vaccine status, a private issue, that some people want to keep to themselves.

Still, the yoga studio owner said she will be complying with the provincial health order, noting that it will give comfort to clients who are vaccinated.

“I expect all yoga studios will be requiring it,” she said.

According to the list of fitness business under this order on the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), you will have to provide proof of vaccination (your original vaccination card is acceptable until Sept. 26) at the following fitness businesses:

  • Gyms, exercise facilities/studios, pools and recreation facilities 
  • Businesses offering indoor group exercise
  • Indoor adult group and team sports for people 22 years and older
  • Indoor organized group recreational classes and activities like pottery, art and choir

For a complete list of businesses requiring proof of vaccination against COVID-19, you’re encouraged to visit the BCCDC’s or province’s website.