A North Delta yoga studio has had its business licence suspended after the city received complaints the business wasn’t taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously.
The City of Delta’s bylaw enforcement department received numerous complaints after an email from Bikram Yoga Delta to its clients claiming the novel coronavirus “cannot survive in the heat” in the studio made the rounds on social media, sparking outrage among many North Delta residents.
The email opened by thanking everyone who was still attending classes at the studio — where people perform a series of 26 yoga postures and 2 breathing exercises over 90 minutes in a room heated to 40 C — before making a series of claims about the benefits of continuing to practice hot yoga during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Fact — This supposed virus cannot survive in the heat,” the email reads, before going on to say that “Bikram Hot Yoga is the best way to keep your immune system healthy and/or best way to build and improve your immune system to fight flu’s (sic), colds, bacteria and viruses.”
The email goes on to say the “drastic slowdown in attendance by everyone being paralized (sic) into a fear state of mind” means the studio will be reducing classes “until the worldwide non-sense subsides.”
On Thursday, March 19, the City of Delta declared a local state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The move enable Mayor George Harvie to enact powers necessary to enforce the Provincial Health Officer’s verbal order to limit public gatherings and practice social distancing.
In a press release, the city said it would be taking immediate actions against any businesses that refuse to abide by the Provincial Health Officer’s directions, including closing the business and suspending its business licence.
“These are challenging times for residents and businesses in our community. By declaring a local state of emergency, we have additional abilities to protect the community. I have asked our bylaws department to enforce closures on some businesses that are not following the direction of our Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry,” Harvie said in a statement Thursday afternoon.
“I continue to work with all of council, staff, and senior government officials to protect this community from the impact of COVID-19.”
That same afternoon, Delta bylaw inspectors following up on the public’s complaints visited Bikram Yoga Delta, finding a class in progress.
“The owner indicated he was planning to hold another class later in the day and was not prepared to voluntarily comply with a request to cancel classes in light of the state of emergency related to the spread of a potentially deadly virus,” Hugh Davies, manager of property use and compliance with the City of Delta, said in an email.
“Mayor Harvie, acting in the interest of the community and under the authority of the emergency provincial program, directed bylaw inspectors to revisit the business and suspend the current Delta business licence. The business licence was subsequently suspended and the owner was provided with written notice.
“The owner did co-operate and comply with the suspension, and the evening class was cancelled.”
Asked about the email’s claims during her daily press briefing on Thursday, March 19, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry debunked the notion that the heat in the studio will kill the virus.
“Yoga studios are a place where people are sweating in close next to each other — at least the ones I go to — and that is a perfect environment to spread this virus if somebody is shedding this virus,” she said.
Henry said the claim probably stems from a misinterpretation of the science around the relationship some viruses have with the environment.
“Respiratory viruses like influenza, like some of the other coronaviruses that we’ve seen, tend to fade away when it gets warmer and we have increased amounts of ultraviolet light during the spring and summer time. So we don’t see influenza, it just disappears, as it were, around this time of year,” she said. “And that’s one of the things we’ve really been pushing is we need to save our system until at least influenza goes away, and if we’re lucky this coronavirus may fade as well, it may wane away in the coming weeks.
“We know that some other respiratory viruses do that and they’re sensitive to the heat in our environment and to ultraviolet light. But that’s not in a room or in an enclosed environment.”
Henry said UV light does work to eliminate some bacteria and viruses in health care settings, “but it’s very intense UV light for many hours, so that’s not an option.”