The U of M Active Living Centre (ALC) has updated its COVID-19 policy. Effective Sept. 23, participants are allowed to remove their mask while exercising at their own workout space.
Simon Wang, the U of M’s director of sport and recreation facilities, welcomes the change.
“We’ve actually been hearing from our students, staff and members in general about requesting to not [wear] a mask while they’re engaged in activity, because that was in line with the most current public health orders,” he said.
“We had requested to change that through the COVID recovery steering committee. We recently heard back that that was approved from the provost, and we were certainly happy to hear that.”
Students like Jessica Ritchie are happy to be exercising without masks once again.
“Removing the mask mandate while working out has made my experience a lot better at the gym,” Ritchie explained.“I […] feel like I can fully breathe.”
Public health orders announced at the end of August require all Manitobans wear face masks in indoor public spaces unless they are engaged in sports or exercise.
Previously, the ALC’s policy required participants to wear a mask at all times, including while exercising.
Under the old policy, members complained they found it difficult to exercise and breathe properly while wearing a mask.
“Personally, I get really warm while running on the treadmill and my glasses start to fog,” Ritchie said.
“It’s a hazard not being able to see out of my glasses.”
Some members like U of M student Colleen Soriano are uncomfortable with the policy change.
“I feel a little frustrated because I am not comfortable around people who don’t wear masks,” she said.
Ritchie says she feels safe with the precautions being taken by the ALC.
“Everyone should be screening themselves before going to the gym, plus they require your vaccine card proof in order to get in,” she said.
“So everyone there should be fully vaccinated and not symptomatic. All of the equipment is spread out nicely, so you’re not directly beside someone.”
For students like Soriano, however, this isn’t enough.
“I know that only fully vaccinated people are allowed to use the ALC, but that doesn’t mean an individual who is fully vaxxed does not have COVID,” Soriano said.
“They could have COVID and be asymptomatic and spread the virus to others at [the] ALC.”
Additionally, Soriano expressed concerns about enforcement, saying she has seen some members not wearing masks while not engaged in exercise.
Wang said the ALC has staff throughout the building tasked with ensuring compliance, but relies on an “educational approach” and uses outright enforcement of the policy as “a last resort.”
Wang pointed out other fitness centres in Manitoba had already instituted similar policies in accordance with changes to public health orders.
“For the most part, people have been very [respectful] of the health and safety protocols.”