Toronto gym scraps mandatory vaccination policy after backlash from community
A popular gym in downtown Toronto has rescinded a controversial new policy that would have required all clients to be partially or fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to use its facilities.
Sweat and Tonic, a 16,000-square-foot fitness and wellness complex at 225 Yonge St., announced late Friday following the publication of a blogTO article that "effective immediately, we will be removing this vaccination policy and use the next few months to re-evaluate our reopening procedures."
The business had originally reached out to members on May 22 by email to inform them of the mandatory vaccination policy, which would have come into effect once gyms are allowed to open under Step 3 of Ontario's new "Roadmap to Reopening."
Under Doug Ford's latest plan, the entire province must remain in each step for at least 21 days before moving forward. We have yet to even enter Step 1, which means that gyms will reopen at the very earliest in late July.
"Our intention with the vaccination policy was to keep both our team and our guests that choose to join us indoors as safe as possible. We made a promise that S&T would be a safe space, and when it came to this deadly, infectious disease, we believed that we were making the best choice to uphold that promise," wrote the gym in an email to members on Friday.
"While most of the feedback we received from our community was positive, there were also team members that challenged our timing of a definitive decision — and for that, we are grateful."
The note goes on to say that management decided its original vaccination policy was "premature and divisive," the latter part of which was evident on social media as news of the proposed rule change spread.
"Ban this dracaion [sic] imposing our charter of rights. Don't go there. It's a violation of the law. Either way, vax or not," wrote someone on Twitter in a response typical arguments levied by people on one side of the divide.
"Private company. They can do what they want," wrote another, reflecting the sentiments of the opposing side. "If you choose not to get vaccinated, find another studio. Simple as that."
Discrimination for non vaxx people. Wow...crazy..unbelievable no words. Except you will not be getting my business. Vaxxed or not. Sick pic.twitter.com/Egn71lmkfB— Maria (@mariadelia1234) May 31, 2021
Sweat and Tonic's original plan, announced last weekend, would have required all guests and employees to have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination in Step 3 and to be completely vaccinated upon full reopening.
Guests would have needed to show proof of vaccination at the reception desk, as well as verify their status as fully or partially vaccinated at least two weeks prior to their first workout.
"We didn't take this decision lightly and we always kept our community's health and safety first and foremost," said a representative for the company to blogTO when asked about why the policy was implemented.
"But after speaking to our team members, we have decided to remove our vaccination policy as we take time to research, learn, and listen in order to ensure that our COVID protocols remain best-in-class for the fitness industry."
The studio will instead continue to focus on how it can best protect members using science-based direction from governing bodies. Sweat and Tonic has already modified its facility to include temperature scans upon entry, mask use, enhanced sanitization, social distancing, the use of plexiglass dividers and the installation of medical-grade HVAC systems.
The letter to members sent Friday states that the company has "always believed in an inclusive environment and the freedom of choice."
"In a time where forced change is frequent, we unnecessarily added to the weight and stress of an already heavy time. For that, we sincerely apologize," writes founder David Ingram.
"It was never our intention to force anyone to make medical decisions faster than they had planned.... After an incredibly difficult 16 months for all of us, stress levels are high and the priority should be to support each other and look out for both physical and mental wellbeing."
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