San Francisco’s top health official ordered all gyms inside government buildings, including police stations, to temporarily close Thursday amid controversy over the fitness centers remaining open while private ones were shut down.
City Health Officer Dr. Tomas Aragon directed city departments to close any indoor gyms and fitness centers immediately in a letter to department heads Wednesday, obtained by the San Francisco Examiner.
“I recognize that there has been some confusion about the interplay between my orders and the changing state orders and CalOSHA requirements and some questions about what is allowed as Essential Government Services under my orders,” Aragon wrote. “But the same health and safety concerns that have compelled me to temporarily close indoor gyms due to potential transmission of COVID-19 apply to the operation of the indoor City gyms.”
The order came down on the same day Aragon allowed private gyms to resume business outdoors.
Private gym owners had raised concerns about the “hypocrisy” of city employees being allowed to work out indoors in places like the Police Headquarters in Mission Bay and the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant St. while privately run fitness studios were closed, as the news site Mission Local previously reported.
But the owners were not seeking to close the indoor city-run gyms. They wanted San Francisco to let private gyms open indoors with 10 percent capacity as currently allowed under state guidelines.
“Our goal wasn’t to shut down the city-operated gyms,” said Dave Karraker, who represents a group of fitness studios called the San Francisco Independent Fitness Studio Coalition. “Our goal was to show that they’ve demonstrated that it’s safe to work out indoors, so if it’s safe for them, it should be safe for us.”
But Aragon said indoor gyms and fitness centers “greatly increase the risk of virus transmission, including from asymptomatic people, due to the relatively limited air circulation, the increase in particle exhalation due to exertion, and the increased risk of people touching shared equipment.”
Aragon said city gyms will be allowed to reopen under future health orders.
Aragon issued an order late Monday to allow limited indoor use of gyms and fitness centers beginning Sept. 14.
This story has been updated to include additional information.