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Gym co-owner: Our members, staff facing unemployment cannot wait much longer

As the co-owner of two locally owned and operated fitness clubs, my priority always has been and remains the health and wellness of my community and our club's members, which is why I am joining with other fitness industry advocates to call upon Gov. Kate Brown to allow for a limited reopening of indoor fitness facilities in all Oregon counties.

Never before has the need for access to fitness and wellness services been so apparent as during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are only just beginning to see the debilitating long-term impacts of prohibiting access to health and fitness facilities.

At our East Side Athletic Clubs, in particular, we have seen and heard from members who are desperate to be allowed to return to their fitness routines. Many of these members use our services to manage chronic diseases, increase mobility, and manage their mental health, a need that is greater now than ever before in our generation. These are vital health needs that must not be overlooked as we enter the tenth month of this pandemic.

COURTESY PHOTO - Carly Langston, East Side Athletic Club's service desk ambassador (left), joins gym owner Terri Gilreath in welcoming blood donors in spring 2020.But as a 35-year veteran of the health and fitness industry in Oregon, I also want to be clear that I would never advocate for the reopening of our facility if I felt that would in any way negatively impact the health of our members.

Thankfully, we know that fitness facilities are safe. Recently released findings from the University of Oregon's Oregon Consulting Group's found "no statistically significant link between fitness club attendance and COVID-19 cases," based on a case study in Colorado. In New York, a recent study found that only 0.06% of 46,000 total COVID-19 cases could be traced back to gyms.

Here in Oregon, of the more than 11,000 COVID-19 cases that have been reported in association with workplaces, not a single outbreak has been reported that can be traced to a gym or fitness facility.

Our two East Side Athletic Clubs serviced 56,953 check-ins between reopening on June 1 and the mandated second closure on Nov. 18 and did not have a single case of COVID-19 traced back to our facilities.

Like all of the other fitness facilities across Oregon, large and small, East Side Athletic Clubs have gone to great lengths to ensure the health and safety of our members. We are mandating mask usage, social distancing and sanitization procedures. We have taken the necessary precautions to keep our members safe (purchasing air scrubbers, Hepa filters, acrylic screens and more) while also allowing them access to the vital health and wellness services they need during these challenging times.

But our members — and our staff who are now facing unemployment just as the holidays approach — cannot wait much longer. With each passing day, their health deteriorates. Please join in urging Gov. Brown to allow fitness facilities to open at least on a limited basis in all counties throughout the state. She already has restricted access to these vital health and wellness facilities for far too long.

Terri Gilreath is the co-owner of the East Side Athletic Club, which operates gyms in Oak Grove and near the Clackamas Town Center.


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