Gym owners in “Extreme Risk” counties said they can open up safely but the state said banning indoor workouts is meant to curb human contact and reduce exposure.
PORTLAND, Ore. — Gym owners in the “Extreme Risk” counties of Oregon are frustrated with having to remain closed for another two weeks.
Currently, under the state’s COVID guidelines, indoor workouts are banned. Outdoor workouts can take place, but some gym owners don’t have space in their parking lots. Others say the colder weather of Oregon’s winters doesn’t make outdoor workouts a viable option.
“One percent of our members have chosen to utilize those facilities because it’s still not ideal. It’s cold, it’s wet, it’s not as fun if you will.” said Landon Burningham, founder and CEO of Physiq Fitness.
Physiq has four locations, three in Marion County and one in Linn County. Two of their gyms have been able to utilize outdoor gyms. All four locations are in counties deemed “Extreme Risk”.
“I think the hardest thing about the way that the new structure is set up is that we don’t know when we’re opening and then if we can open, we don’t know how long we’re gonna stay open,” Burningham said.
George Comalli, owner of Hollywood Fitness agrees, “The hardest part of this is starting and stopping, for instance, we made all of the requisite changes and pretty much all of us revamped our businesses to not only comply but far exceed what we thought we needed to do to be safe.”
Oregon is one of only two states that don’t allow gyms in every county to open in some capacity. California is the other. The New York Times created a state-by-state breakdown of what’s open in each state.
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KGW News asked the Oregon Health Authority why indoor workouts could not resume. Tim Heider, a spokesperson for OHA sent us the following statement that reads in part:
“All of the risk reduction measures in place—including the temporary closures of indoor gyms in Extreme Risk counties—are intended to curb human contact, reduce the number of people we interact with, and reduce the frequency of those encounters.“
The Oregon Health and Fitness Alliance, which represents 450 fitness clubs across Oregon, sent the Oregon Health Authority a public record request asking for data to support banning indoor workouts. KGW News was sent a copy of that records request. The Oregon Health Authority sent OHFA and KGW News multiple articles regarding the science of how the virus spreads as well as articles pointing to outbreaks at fitness centers outside of Oregon and around the world.
A recent study from the University of Oregon found “that the risk of COVID-19 transmission in gyms may be lower than that of restaurants or bars.”
A study out of Yale found a similar finding, “Provided good hygiene and physical distancing measures, there was no increased transmission of SARS-CoV-2 at training facilities.”
“The logic that Kate Brown is using with her executive orders doesn’t make sense,” says Dianna Risley, owner of Gorge Athletic Clubs in Hood River and The Dalles. “It’s illogical, it’s not based on any scientific data that she can provide or that we can find anywhere.”
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Risley also sits on the board of directors at the OHFA. She said the orders banning indoor workouts to keep people from coming in close contact with others to prevent the spread of the virus is hypocritical.
“You can go get a massage because she says it is good for mental health where they’re in a room with you for an hour, hands-on in close proximity, but you can’t go work out 15 feet from another masked person doing yoga.”
Gym owners say while they are losing money with having to stay closed, they say it’s not about the business of making money, but more about the health of those that use that business.
“The majority of us got into this business because we care about the health and well-being of others. We didn’t get into this industry to get rich, there isn’t a lot of money in the fitness industry.” Risley said.
Comalli said, “We’re the option for people in normal circumstances, now it’s more important than ever. People need a space to relieve the stress, build their immune systems and fight off some real serious depression this winter.”
Risley says the Oregon Health and Fitness Alliance is exploring all options which would allow all of the gyms in every Oregon county to reopen again.
“We’re imploring the state to take into consideration data and research that actually show gyms are safe and that can operate safely even amid COVID.”
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