Gyms in Boston have to close for a minimum of three weeks starting Wednesday. Personal training is still allowed and outdoor gym activities can operate with fewer than 25 people.
It's part of a rollback to fight coronavirus spread that Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced earlier this week, in coordination with several other Greater Boston communities such as Somerville, Brockton and Newton. Rollback starting dates vary.
Some gym owners are firing back at the decision, saying that gyms and fitness facilities offer people physical and mental health benefits that we hardly can afford to lose right now.
We hear from Mark Rowe, he's a general manager and a partner with Beacon Hill Athletics Club. Five of the Beacon Hill Athletics Club's seven locations are closed today to comply with the new mandate from Boston.
On a second shut down of gyms and a lack of control of the situation:
Mark Rowe: "It's infuriating. I mean, this company started in the late 1980s. And, you know, we're the longest privately owned health club company in the city of Boston. We've been fortunate to be able to serve the Boston area for well over 30 years now. And, you know, we've built this from the ground up. We thought that, you know, in the beginning when we shut down, we understood that. There wasn't the data out there. People didn't know where it was coming from. And we needed to figure that out. You know, we now have eight months of data to be able to support where the concerns are and what needs to be shut down and what doesn't, and the data doesn't support shutting us down."
"I mean if you read the Mass. state health report — on page 35 — even shows that health clubs attribute infection to .048%, which is is nothing. So we were shocked to see that we were going to be one of the businesses that was shut down."
On what's lost with gyms shut down:
Rowe: "...We look at ourselves as a necessary business. I mean, we're dealing with health and wellness. That is what we deal with. And that's proven to combat that. It's proven that individuals that are exercising regularly are less likely to contract the virus. And if they do, they have a much better chance of combating the virus."
"In addition, you know, it's proven that exercise and human interaction and getting out of your house is huge to combat stress, anxiety, depression. Especially during the holidays. I mean, this is a large concern normally around the holidays. And now, you know, in the middle of a global pandemic, it's even more important. I think that we serve a very necessary need to the communities that we're in."
On safety measures taken to avoid COVID-19 spread in the gym:
Rowe: "We have the mask mandate. Under no circumstances can a mask be removed. Masks are worn from the time you walk through the door until the time you leave. When any type of cardiovascular exercise is done, all of our equipment is spaced six to nine feet apart. And they also have plastic partitions separating them. So they're in pods. Those partitions are nine feet tall and they're eight feet wide. ... We've taken extreme measures."
"We've gone further than even what, you know, the city of Boston has asked us to do in order to ensure that [spread] doesn't happen. We clean the facilities on an hourly basis. We have hydrostatic sprayers that we use. When someone walks through the door, everyone's temperature is taken before they can enter. They are required to sanitize their hands before they use anything and walk in the door. And then we have sanitizing stations that are required to wipe everything down once you do it."
On the importance of being open in January:
Rowe: "It's huge. So, you know, we operate on much smaller margins than we did many years ago. January attributes to probably about 25% of our annual business. So to start the year off like this is, it's going to be a huge challenge. There's so many unknowns. We're not sure what kind of impact that will have going forward. We also don't know if it's only going to be three weeks. You know, we're not really getting the information we need. So we really can't forecast the impact. I can tell you that it's a very negative impact to our industry, enduring a very trying time. So it's going to be very tough."
This segment aired on December 16, 2020.