City officials are trying to figure out how a single Quebec City gym that refused to obey closure orders could have been linked to the infection of at least 580 people, including a 40-year-old man who died after contracting COVID.
Health authorities told CBC that the Mega Fitness Gym had breached at least three public health orders before it was forced to close on March 31, just as the city was under another lockdown amid rising rates of infection. The outbreak has prompted local health authorities to conduct an epidemiological investigation into how the virus was able to spread so quickly and whether the infections were caused by the deadly UK variant.
The gym’s owner, Daniel Morino, had protested government-required business closures by reopening his facility amid a province-wide shutdown last summer. According to CBC, the owner of the gym had shared posts on social media that downplayed the severity of the virus and cast doubt on the need to wear face masks.
In June, the police reported to Morino’s gym after receiving a complaint that he had organized a “grand reopening” at 5 am of his family business. Morino told a local newspaper that after touring the store, the police officers left without imposing fines or ordering him to close the gym doors.
“I was not surprised by the presence of the police and told them to do their job like I did mine,” Marino said. Le Journal de Québec, adding that he had taken the necessary precautions to keep his clients safe.
“My biggest fear is going bankrupt… I have nothing to lose. If I am fined $ 50,000, I will add it to my debts. Either way, it won’t make any difference since I’m going bankrupt. I have invested 25 years of my life in this business and I don’t want to go bankrupt without doing anything. I would regret it all my life. I’m not people’s savior, but I’m just trying to save my business. “
Although Marino maintained that he had adhered to social distancing measures after challenging the blocking mandates, the Quebec City public health director said that, based on the latest inspection, it was clear that the gym had not taken the precautions of adequate security.
According to the director’s statement, which was reported by CTV, gym-goers were not being screened for symptoms, employees were not wearing proper personal protective equipment, and clients were not physically distancing themselves from each other.
Morino finally closed the doors of the Mega Fitness Gym to the public on March 31. But at that point, it was too late. With hundreds infected, one gym patron killed, and more casualties likely to occur, the outbreak has become one of Canada’s largest super-spreader events.
Addressing Quebec City’s latest lockdown amid Canada’s lagging vaccination rates and the staggering third wave of COVID, Mayor Régis Labeaume had a few select words addressed directly to Dan Marino.
“Bravo, champion,” he said. “They all have good biceps, but now people are sick.”