By Phil Willon
Los Angeles Times
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday said his administration will release guidelines “in a week or so” for allowing gyms, yoga studios and other fitness facilities to reopen, though stringent safeguards will need to be adopted to protect customers from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Newsom cautioned that the state directives will be tailored to the unique characteristics of each business, from large fitness chains to small studios, and will rely heavily on the advice of public health officials in each county.
The governor made the comments during an online roundtable with fitness professionals and business owners Wednesday morning, saying he hopes to allow them to be back in business as soon as possible.
“We also recognize your sector is multifaceted and we don’t want to be naive and just put out something that’s bland and that doesn’t meet your unique criteria and your unique considerations,” Newsom said.
The news comes as Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County’s public health officer who was a key figure in crafting the San Francisco Bay Area’s shelter-in-place order, the first of its kind in the U.S., said she was concerned with the Newsom administration’s decision to allow gatherings of up to 100 people for religious, cultural or political reasons and the “increased frequency” with which the state is lifting coronavirus restrictions.
Newsom said that 47 of California’s 58 counties had met the state’s regional standards to ease his stay-at-home order, which include preparations to increase hospital capacity, testing and supplies of protective equipment. That has allowed retailers in most of the state to open, as well as hair salons and barbershops.
The governor’s chief of staff, Ann O’Leary, said the draft guidelines to reopen the fitness industry are currently being reviewed by state public health officials and that she expects those directives to be released within a week.
Adam Attia, owner of Fitness Rangers in Sacramento, told the governor that the closure, put in place in March to stem the spread of the coronavirus, has been financially and personally devastating. He told the governor he needs to reopen soon — within a week or so — if he hopes to stay in business.
“We’re desperate. We want to go back into the gym. We’re doing everything we can to keep our members engaged,” Attia told Newsom during the meeting, which streamed on YouTube. “We’re at a point where I’m going to have to lay everyone off. I may have to close my doors permanently if we can’t reopen soon. We really need your support.”
Francesca Schuler, chief executive of In-Shape Health Clubs, also emphasized how essential the fitness industry is to Californians.
“We’re one of the only industries that’s really in preventative healthcare of the community so impacted by COVID-19. Many of them are individuals who struggle with chronic illnesses., usually, diabetes, high blood pressure,” Schuler told the governor.
This week, Newsom unveiled the new directive for salons and issued statewide guidelines for religious services, calling on houses of worship to limit attendance to 25% of capacity of their buildings, conduct health screenings of congregants and take other precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Newsom administration on Monday also allowed retail stores to reopen, shifting away from an earlier patchwork approach that permitted in-person shopping only in counties that met the state’s criteria. Retailers are advised to limit the number of patrons in stores at one time, urge employees and customers to wear face masks, and provide hand sanitizer, in addition to other guidelines.
Under Newsom’s original four-stage reopening plan, hair salons, barbershops, nail salons and other grooming services, gyms, sports competitions in empty stadiums and religious services were set to open in Stage 3.
The fourth and final stage would mark the end of the stay-at-home order and all restrictions, allowing people to return to concerts and sporting events, which the governor previously noted was unlikely to occur until a vaccine became widely available.