Open Oregon Gyms
Open Oregon Gyms
Dear Governor Brown,
We are a family-owned gym in Central Oregon and wanted to take the time to write and petition for the reopening of gyms based on current transmission rates and our ability to operate safely. We will have been shut down for a total of 112 days on January 14th 2021. Jobs from our community and the means to make a living were lost. A resource for long term physical health, mental health and emotional health was shut down. With such an important outlet like a gym closed, I would imagine there would overwhelming supporting evidence to do so. However, there is not.
The OHA has continued to say that gyms are shut down because when people are exercising, they breathe heavier, which creates more potential for Covid-19 spreading and they may sweat on the face masks which can reduce the effectiveness of filtration. I understand these concerns and agree that that is possible. However, what we don't understand is if the OHA statement turned out to be true, the incidences of spread linked to a gym would be significantly higher during the 6 months we were open, but has not been the case.
If indeed the OHA statement was used to evaluate safety of operating, why would the state allow football and basketball to be played? Just watching games (which we do enjoy), you see no social distancing, masks on and off (probably covered in sweat thus reducing effectiveness), people breathing hard and playing in very close contact with each other anywhere from 2-3+ hours. They practice together and do conditioning/training in an athletic facility aka “gym” week in and week out. To me, that seems like an extreme potential for spread, according to the OHA statement, but games and conditioning continue to place every week. Why are those gyms open and that type of activity taking deemed permissible, but gyms are closed? Why have their seasons continued despite outbreaks at multiple schools across the country while gyms with no outbreaks are closed? There is obvious hypocrisy is who can and cannot operate.
While we do not have number for all gyms, we can tell you that at our gym between May and November 2020, out of 33,796 check ins we have had no cases linked to or spread from our facility. Another gym 20 minutes away from us has a 0.00% case spread. Here are some other numbers and statistics during the time when gyms were allowed to open here in Oregon and in other parts of the US.
A study with Planet Fitness conducted by the University of Oregon's Consulting Group showed that out of 1.2 million Planet Fitness member check-ins in Oregon through November 30, only 0.0119% tested positive for COVID-19 with no evidence of those cases originating at Planet Fitness.
A report by IHRSA (International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association) found that out of 49.9 million gym check-ins there has been a 0.0023% infection rate.
Another study using data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) through November 18th found that in nearly 8.5 million check-ins there was no link to the 59 outbreaks reported by the CDPHE.
More data from Philadelphia gym and studio owners from July 21- November 20 showed a 0.0088% transmission rate.
In New York, Governor Cuomo stated that gyms accounted for a 0.06% spread during a period from September-November 2020.
With numbers like these, I don’t understand why gyms have not been allowed to operate. Gyms should not be shut down because of what could happen, but of what actually has happened. These statistics show that gyms contribute less to the spread of Covid compared to other businesses that are currently allowed to operate as demonstrated by a recent ruling in New York State.
A Supreme court judge in New York ruled that the mandate telling gyms to operate at 25% capacity was “arbitrary and capricious” and there was a lack of data that showed gyms are a problem, and that places that have higher rate of transmission than gyms are open at 100% capacity. The data used was that of the 0.06% transmission rate for gyms as compared to 0.61% at Walmart which is 10 times more likely to spread the virus. Again, gyms are not significantly contributing to the spread more than other businesses allowed to operate.
This is not to say that gyms will not have cases if we open again. All businesses have the potential for cases, just look at the list of the 100+ current Oregon outbreaks that include schools, daycare centers, car dealerships, Costco, Walmart, Fred Meyer, Target, Safeway, Oregon Employment Office, construction companies, distribution centers, etc. with majority of cases still stemming from social gatherings, care facilities, correctional facilities and hospitals. There is potential for there to be cases in every business and facility, so the question becomes, can that business/facility operate safely and limit the spread. For gyms, the answer is yes.
We have done everything you have asked and more. We have spent thousands of dollars to upgrade our disinfecting equipment and solutions. We have high quality air filters. We have required face coverings. We are disinfecting high touch areas multiple times a day and members are disinfecting equipment before and after use. We disinfect the entire club with an electrostatic sprayer daily. We have maintained at least six feet between machines and equipment and in some areas, much more space is provided. We were operating significantly below capacity and are rarely crowded. We have over 20,000 square feet and we average about 50 people in that space during our busy time. That is more area for social distancing than any retail space we’ve been in and cleaner.
We would also like to address the important role a gym plays in one’s physical and mental health as another reason why we should be open. According to a report from the CDC, 94% of U.S. deaths involving COVID-19 since February were also associated with on average 2.6 additional conditions, or causes per death. Conditions included hypertension, diabetes and cardiac arrest. These are conditions that can be improved, reversed and even prevented with physical activity and nutritional modifications. Gyms provide personal trainers which are integral in planning and following through on your wellness journey.
The CDC also states that 1 in 2 adults live with chronic disease and only half of adults get the physical activity they need to help reduce and prevent chronic disease like diabetes and heart disease. They also state that physical activity saves lives and protects health. In a time where being active and healthy is so important, facilities that promote this lifestyle should remain open.
Gyms also provide a place for resistance training, which is another vital component of physical activity that you can’t get just by walking outside. According to Current Sports Medicine Reports, the benefits of resistance training include “improved physical performance, movement control, walking speed, functional independence, cognitive abilities, and self-esteem.” Resistance training may help prevent and manage type 2 diabetes, enhance cardiovascular health, promote bone development, decrease low back pain and ease discomfort associated with arthritis and fibromyalgia and has been shown to reverse specific aging factors in skeletal muscle. Resistance training is an crucial component of overall health and gyms provide equipment and space needed for this type of training.
The physical benefits of physical exercise and resistance training have long been known, but we must not overlook the benefits of physical activity has on mental health. Mental health issues have increased because of the lock downs associated with the pandemic. According to the Primary Care Companion Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, “Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function. Exercise has also been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal.” In a time when mental health has been challenged like no other, a gym can provide that environment to help one cope with feelings associated with this pandemic and challenges from daily life. For so many, working out is our therapy.
Our current financial situation is getting worse with each passing day. Revenue is down by 50% and we've poured our own money in as long as we can and haven’t come close to breaking even. We are out of money and quickly running out of time. Sadly, many gyms are in the same boat.
It is unfortunate that we have been put in a situation where we either comply with the mandates and watch while our business fails, or break the mandates to survive and face fines or even jail time. That is an impossible position to be in with no help on the way.
We are job providers for our family and our employees. We are a safe space for people to let off emotional steam. A place where the battle against chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease are being fought and won. A place where rehab and therapy from injuries or surgeries continue. A place where long term physical health is developed and maintained. A place where mental health is nurtured. A place where lives have been changed and a place where lives have been saved. A place where we encourage each other towards achieving goals and living a healthy lifestyle. We are a community and a family.
We know you are focused on keeping all Oregonians safe and saving lives and that is a goal we share. We believe gyms can continue to help reach that goal by improving and maintaining the well-being of individuals whether it be physical, mental or emotional and we can do it all while keeping members safe. We just ask for equal treatment and a re-evaluation of your mandate keeping gyms closed, based on actual transmission rates, not hypothetical situations. We are willing to work together on more specific guidelines to operate safely, although with our numbers, we think gyms were doing a fantastic job of limiting the spread. Let us be part of the solution since we are not the problem. Thank you for your consideration.