Restrictions returned to Canada yesterday as the Omicron variant continues to spread. As climbing gyms scramble to meet new health regulations, Canadians face pandemic fatigue and a potentially lonely winter.
Yesterday saw the highest recorded case counts of COVID-19 in both Quebec and Nova Scotia. While Ontario and BC remain under their peaks, both provinces have returned to capacity restrictions. Except for BC, these provinces each saw their climbing gyms reinstate mandates such as bookings, time-slots and reduced capacity limits. BC has decided to move toward individual restrictions but they have not yet enforced mandates to restrict climbing gym access.
Conversely, Alberta’s provincial government has not mandated changes to Alberta’s pandemic-related policies. Gyms have maintained their regulations since early Autumn and will likely await government mandate before adjusting their policies.
With 76.26% of Canada’s total population fully vaccinated the national and provincial governments face a difficult question in the face of Omicron. According to The New York Times, all vaccines provide a significant degree of protection against serious illness from Omicron, but only Pfizer and Moderna, with the addition of a booster, appear to have success in stopping infection.
With each vaccine’s varying effectiveness against the Omicron variant, it has become difficult to discern exactly who is protected. While climbing gyms have stayed safe over the pandemic they have suffered continuous closures by government mandate.
Although all measures toward safety are worth taking, it would seem that the highest places of transmission are not gyms. According to an article published by The Know, “The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, which commissioned the study, reported in October that its data showed a minuscule infection rate in U.S. gyms of 1,155 cases out of 49.4 million gym check-ins (0.0023%).”
They went on to describe a second study based out of Colorado. In 32 weeks, and 8.5 million check-ins, there was no link to gyms in the 59 outbreaks reported by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Furthermore, a peer reviewed study has shown that chalk particles reduce the infectivity of coronavirus by 99%. While it remains unclear how this study holds up in the face of Omicron, such a value lends support to keeping climbing gyms open. Many will await these next days to see how other countries respond to the once-again worsening pandemic.
While the future remains uncertain, perhaps one things climbers can take solace in is the strength of their community.