Gov. Gavin Newsom held a digital roundtable with gym owners Wednesday, promising that new guidelines for reopening health clubs would come out in about a week. For some owners that’s not soon enough.
The state’s 4,000 fitness businesses have been closed since mid-March, putting much of their 180,000-person workforce on reduced hours, furlough or out of work.
Fitness club owners are frustrated that state reopening rules and dates are not yet firmed up.
“We have no guidelines. Nothing’s been sent to us, not the county or the state,” said J.B. Fitts, who owns CrossFit Crown City, a strength-training gym in Pasadena.
He’s been putting on Zoom workouts to keep clients engaged. He also got some government stimulus money which will run out in about another week or two. But he’s worried about losing members and falling behind on bills after that.
When Fitts reopens his gym he will have to put on smaller classes and hire more trainers to achieve the necessary physical distancing.
“So even though this time hurts right now being closed, the reality is those first few months of being open could hurt worse than this,” Fitts said.
His gym occupies 5,000 square feet and it would normally have about 30 people inside at any one time, about 15 taking a class and another 15 people socializing before or after the workout. They might also be touching the same surfaces, like barbells, heavy battle ropes or pull-up bars.
He hasn’t received official guidance for how to accomplish the necessary physical distance between athletes, but he’s already made some changes. He’s taped off boxes on the gym workout floor for each athlete, and put in each box all the weights and equipment needed for the workout.
All of that equipment will be cleaned between classes, too. But he will probably have to have fewer athletes in the gym at any one time, and schedule classes farther apart to accomplish the between-classes sanitizing of equipment. He’s also stocked lots more hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies so athletes can do their part to clean surfaces they touch.
Fitts is ready to re-open, he just wants to know when.
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WHAT’S THE REOPENING PLAN?
The governor’s plan to restore California businesses to normalcy takes it in four phases, from closed to fully open. The state is in phase 2 now, where lower-risk businesses may open with some restrictions to reduce new infections and to achieve physical distances between people.
And some counties are asking the state for a variance so they can move into phase 3, which covers higher-risk fitness businesses like gyms, yoga studios, martial arts dojos, exercise classes, and health clubs.
An industry group called the California Fitness Alliance of large and small companies formed in May to address the challenge of reopening. They drafted a set of proposed guidelines they want the state to use. But they don’t know yet if Newsom will adopt their guidelines, alliance member Francesca Schuler said.
Once the state guidelines are out, it’s up to county governments to decide if they are appropriate and to say when gyms might open up, she said. Schuler is CEO of In-Shape Health Clubs, a 63-outlet chain in California.
“Our expectation is counties will move quite quickly because we’ve been already working with them,” she said, comparing the process to what the restaurant industry has been doing.