Gym owners say they were finally starting to recover from the first shutdown, and the new “freeze” may cost them their businesses.
PORTLAND, Oregon — With the rapid spike in COVID-19 cases in Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown told gyms and fitness studios to pause – again.
Under the new COVID-19 restrictions, gyms and fitness centers will close starting Wednesday. In Oregon most of them have to close for at least two weeks, but in hotspots like Multnomah County they must close for at least a month.
In Washington, under Gov. Jay Inslee’s new restrictions, gyms and fitness studios must close for a month also.
Local gym owners are concerned about their clients and the future of their businesses. They’ve been through this before, but this time small gym and fitness studio owners say it stings more.
“It’s worse,” said owner Tana Ross of Bleeding Hearts Kettlebell Club in Southeast Portland. “When we were able to open I was like, ‘Yes! We’re going to come back!’ And then we had just enough time to get back in the groove and then we’re shut down again. So it sucks worse.”
“It’s a lot to lose that one thing you got to get out of the house for,” Ross said.
“It was such a blow,” BurnCycle owner Jessi Duley said. “I had – prior to this – over 100 employees and it’s all gone, it’s all gone. And having to go back into a meeting today and let everyone go again because the reality is: I don’t trust we’re going to be here for four weeks.”
Both small fitness studios owners understand government officials need to act to slow the spread of the coronavirus in Oregon, but wish different actions were taken early on and again now.
They invested in safety and sanitizing. They cut class sizes to allow for physical distancing. They required masks and bleached and disinfected objects after every single class. They opened doors and windows to allow for ventilation, and more.
Duley and Ross argue their studios should not have the same restrictions as larger gyms.
“If we’re being clumped in with people that were reckless and selfish and didn’t do mask mandates, then find them and close them down. We are providing essential health to this community,” Duley said.
Nathan Bramlage, who lives and works in Woodburn, thinks the new rules send mixed messages, since salons can stay open.
“I’m worried just how long it’s going to be and go back and forth,” he said.
Gov. Brown said they’ve found no ties between businesses like hair salons or massage parlors and rising cases, and that those businesses improve people’s mental and physical health. But fitness experts and gymgoers argue: So does exercise.
Bramlage uses exercise as his outlet and therapy.
“I had one bout of depression that led me to a hospital stay,” Bramlage said. “Going to the gym keeps me from going down that path.”
Without financial support from the government, Duley and Ross say permanent closure feels imminent. While both gyms will do live Zoom workouts, they don’t feel virtual workouts provide the same level of accountability and community their in-person workouts do.
Duley says she’s racked up a lot of debt in the months her gym wasn’t allowed to operate.
“If we can’t pay these debts, they come after us. Every single small business owner right now is feeling this way, is carrying the weight,” Duley said. “They’re taking their livelihood away, of all their employees, they’re taking the one element of hope and positivity and human connection away from their communities. And then you’ve got the financial aspect riding on your shoulders of, ‘I may never get out of this.'”
“We’re very close to having to close down all the time,” Ross said. “It’s already a month-to-month thing. I’ve already cut trainers’ hours and I pay them way less. I haven’t paid myself since March. I want to keep people safe and I’ll do what I need to do to do that, but I wish there was some support.”
Under the governor’s new restrictions, you can still play sports and recreate outside with the safety protocols already in place. Parks and playgrounds are also staying open.