After closing down for several months in response to provincial public-health orders, the staff of the Bill Wedlake Fitness Centre reopened the gym in August of last year. The fitness centre, which sits in the middle of the U of W campus in the Axworthy Health & RecPlex building, lets students, staff and community members improve and sustain their fitness and wellbeing while cooped up in the middle of the pandemic.
On Feb. 25, the Recreation Services website announced plans to follow the Shared Health Manitoba public-health orders. These orders no longer require people to show proof of vaccination in public places starting March 1. As of March 15, people are no longer required to wear masks in indoor public spaces.
Since March 1, as per provincial guidelines, Bill Wedlake gym-goers no longer need to flash their student ID or vaccination cards to the security guard that sits beyond the doors of the Ellice Street entrance. However, the rest of the University of Winnipeg still requires students and staff to show proof of vaccination if they wish to access campus buildings.
Some are unaware that the gym has had a different vaccine policy since the beginning of the month.
Ziqi Yin, a student of the university working out at the gym, says she didn’t really know about the gym’s new policy but agreed with the university’s choice to have students and staff prove their vaccination status before entering campus buildings.
Another student lifting weights, Jem Bruno, did not know about the new policy either before speaking to The Uniter.
“I think honestly everyone has their own opinion on things,” Bruno says. “But as long as you’re staying safe by yourself, you should be fine.”
Daniel Matthes, a staff member of the university’s library, didn’t know the full vaccine policy of the fitness centre.
However, some were aware of the new policy. “I guess it was in line with the provincial regulations (and) what was already going on, so it was probably the sensible move by the university,” Bhavneet Singh Kalsi, a third-year science and biology student, says.
In an email interview with The Uniter, Dean Melvie, the director of recreational facilities and services at the University of Winnipeg, describes the thought process behind the decision for the fitness centre to follow public-health orders.
“Since we operate a fitness centre and indoor recreation facilities, we will follow applicable health orders, just like any other similar facility,” Melvie says. “The main campus and other buildings are different, because although the university works closely with public health, the regulation of its operations is not the same as recreation and athletic facilities.”
He also brought insight on how Recreational Services discussed the province’s new orders. Recreational Services was in dialogue with the Operations Recovery Team, a university committee that made the recommendation to follow public-health regulations.
Melvie is uncertain as to whether or not the new Manitoba COVID-19 public policy will help bring members – old and new – to gyms across the province. However, he is positive about the possible return of capacity restrictions if another wave of the virus hits Canada.
“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve had to adjust our policies based on changes to mandates and to safeguard the health of our community,” he says. “If the mandate is re-enacted, we will move to enforce protocols as required. We’ve done this before and can do it again.”
Published in Volume 76, Number 21 of The Uniter (March 17, 2022)