Gym closures a proactive way to limit spread, health officials say

While many gym owners push back against the latest restrictions, health officials insist closing gyms is an important proactive step to stopping spread.

Posted: Dec 4, 2020 6:25 PM
Updated: Dec 4, 2020 6:29 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Gym owners across the state have taken issue with Gov. Kate Brown's newest restrictions, saying there haven't been any workplace outbreaks at their gym. Yet, health officials insist it's a proactive step to prevent further spread.

Dr. Emilio DeBess is a senior health officer for the Oregon Health Authority's COVID-19 response team. He said the science behind why gyms have to stay closed is simple.

"No mask fits perfectly so you know that stuff is pumping out based on that excessive breathing and exercise," he said. "In our minds it's a combined space. Viruses blow more than six feet. Scientific studies are telling us that's a risky situation."

As we know, this is how viruses spread.

A statement from the governor's office said, in part, "Health and safety measures only mitigate the risk of contracting COVID-19, they do not eliminate it. ... All of the risk reduction measures in place, including the temporary closures of indoor gyms in extreme risk counties, are intended to curb human contact and reduce the frequency of those encounters."

Some gym owners said they understand completely.

Jeremy Steckler, owner of Eugene CrossFit, said the last thing he wants to do is get someone sick.

"We're going to be dressing warm, being outside, wearing gloves, it's going to suck, but you know when we get to the end of this we're going to be stronger and more together than ever before," Steckler said. "We're freakin' fighting with everything we can trying to figure out how to keep people safe, stay in the regulations and keep our business open."

DeBess said data doesn't trace many outbreaks back to gyms, but the restrictions are preventative and all part of the bigger picture

"The number of cases are going up and the hospitalizations are going up and fatalities are going up so we need to think more proactively at this point," he said.

In extreme risk counties such as Lane, all indoor workout facilities are closed. The guidance for where a county falls is re-evaluated every two weeks. To read more about the new risk level requirements, CLICK HERE.

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