Opinion: Governor unfairly shut down health clubs
Since the "freeze" was announced, Gov. Brown and her staff have been clear that the businesses that were arbitrarily targeted and forced to close are not responsible for the spread of COVID-19. Instead, select industries were forced to lay off staff and close their doors — potentially permanently — for the supposed benefit of the community as a whole. While all Oregonians recognize the need to slow the spread of COVID-19, arbitrarily picking winners and losers in this fight will not have a measurable impact on COVID-19 spread.
Gov. Brown has repeatedly said businesses are not the source of COVID-19 spread, nor have they seen super-spreader events from the businesses they forced to close. But if cases are not spreading at businesses that have implemented stringent safety measures, and they are instead spreading through private social gatherings, closing these businesses will not slow the spread. It will simply drive more Oregonians away from public spaces where they are required to maintain social distancing and wear masks and into the homes of family and friends where none of these measures can be enforced.
Further, the arbitrary way industries were targeted for closure does not follow any logic or publicly available outbreak data. Fitness clubs and gyms — which ensure guests wear masks, maintain social distancing, and implement strict sanitization practices — must close, while salons, massage services and some sports programs remain open. Our children can go to sports practices, but adults cannot run on a treadmill a great distance away from others while wearing a mask. We can get our hair done, or a massage that requires direct physical contact, but cannot attend a yoga class benefiting both our mental and physical health where we have no physical contact.
Gov. Brown allowed these sectors to remain open because their services help Oregonians maintain their mental and physical health. We can think of no industry that allows Oregonians to maintain their mental and physical health more so than the fitness industry.
Our hearts break for our members who control their PTSD with exercise, members with arthritis, Parkinson's or other chronic diseases whose health and mobility rapidly deteriorated during the last shutdown, and members who get their only cardio movement on our recumbent bikes. They break for those who maintain their mental health through fitness when outdoor exercise simply is not an option. And they break for our employees whose paychecks will stop, or whose lifelong dreams of owning a boutique fitness studio will be destroyed.
Oregon's fitness industry has done everything possible to slow the spread of COVID-19 and the lack of cases show — and the governor has reiterated — our efforts have worked. Cases are not spreading at gyms. The governor and our industry agree on that. But for some reason, the governor has decided that we are the ones who will be forced to take the fall for the entire state.
Oregon's fitness industry can safely continue to provide for Oregonians who need our services while we work with the state to develop solutions that will actually help slow the spread of COVID-19. Please join us in asking Gov. Brown to modify the approach she's taking to manage this public health crisis. Shutting down safe businesses is not the right approach.
Jim Zupancic is the CEO of Stafford Hills Club and the president of the board of directors for the Oregon Health & Fitness Alliance.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.