Deem Coach-Led Fitness As Essential

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We are a coalition of like-minded business owners in Spokane County imploring our local government and health officials to support our effort to reopen our fitness facilities during this current mandated closure.

We represent a number of gym/fitness facilities that operate independently using a small-group, coach/instructor-led model. This allows us and our staff maximum control over the flow of people and enforcement of needed protocols to keep our clientele safe. We believe the state government is not agile enough to recognize that our business model is different than larger franchised gyms that do not have the same control and enforcement capabilities. Sweeping shutdowns for all gyms is not serving the intended purpose of keeping our community safe and healthy. We have surveyed the national data and there is no conclusive link between responsibly operating small group fitness facilities and the transmission of COVID-19. The data simply does not support the current closure mandate for our businesses (see attached article from Washington State Department of Health and Labor & Industries from November 10th, 2020). 

Furthermore, this mandated closure is actually compounding the overall strain on our healthcare system. The mental health and emotional well-being of our community is greatly suffering, and only projected to get worse over the coming months (see the Washington State Department of Health Behavioral Health Impacts from COVID-19 Monthly forecast for November 2020). The volume of research to support that regular exercise (especially in a coach-led setting) is effective in treating, managing, and mitigating the onset of depression, anxiety, and other emotional distress is truly prolific! Not to mention, the known physical benefits of exercise (e.g strengthened immune system and reduced risk of comorbidities like diabetes and heart disease). By allowing us to reopen, with appropriate protocols in place, we can actually be part of the solution.

We value full transparency and operate our businesses on the conviction that our community as a whole is better when people pursue a healthy lifestyle though fitness. As a coalition, we are working to move forward in opening our individual fitness facilities, not in defiance of current orders, but as leaders in the community. It is time to be proactive in promoting health and wellness for our region.

Throughout the last nine months, our individual fitness facilities have followed all mandated closures and reopening/operating protocol. Under Washington’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order, we quickly innovated by loaning out equipment, providing virtual classes, and offering at-home workouts. In each of our cases, we have also worked with our members to terminate their contracts and adjust payment options as needed. We have been glad to care for our people in this way. However, operating a business in this manner is not sustainable long-term.

Once we were able to reopen, we worked hard to ensure our places of business were not only safe for our clientele, but that we honored the State restrictions for operation. Our enforcement of masking policies, social distancing, and sanitization protocols created a space to conduct small group fitness classes without an increased risk of exposure. To our knowledge, there has been no transmission of COVID-19 through our facilities during the period we were able to operate.

At this point, our businesses, our livelihoods, our employees, and the fitness of our communities are critically compromised. We need to find an avenue for operation. We know of loopholes used by similar businesses that allow them to reopen under different operating NAICS codes. However, we firmly believe that the service we offer, and have always offered, is an essential one. We do not desire to change or add to our business model in order to operate during this time. In fact, we have formed  the Stronger Together Coalition, because we believe fitness is perhaps the greatest preventive measure our community can engage in at this time. COVID-19 has ravaged our healthcare system, our economy, and individuals’ lives, but fitness uniquely provides a significant increase in an individual’s ability to address numerous co-morbidities and even fight COVID-19 if infected. A myriad of peer-reviewed articles show a direct correlation between regular physical fitness and increased physical and mental health (see attached article from International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine). Simply put, we find the closure of the very businesses that keep communities healthy counterproductive to the point of recklessness.

We would deeply appreciate the opportunity to meet with any and all County political/health officials to further discuss our intention to create a robust plan that allows essential business like ours to operate for the betterment of our community.

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