When Gov. Doug Ducey ordered various businesses across the state to once again shut down, it caused serious concern for business owners and entrepreneurs throughout Arizona. Just as they were beginning to recover from a difficult few months, that progress was taken away literally with less than 4-hours notice. Worse yet is that a significant portion of the businesses directly affected by the order have actually been operating safely and following all necessary health guidelines.
Gyms are one of the primary examples of this. I own and operate an Anytime Fitness location in Phoenix. Since our gym was allowed to reopen, we have been faithfully enacting all of the guidance passed down by local health officials and the CDC, adapting our facilities in a way to keep members safe.
In fact, small gyms like ours are among the most flexible when it comes to rising to the occasion and meeting the needs of the moment. With our pre-Covid membership base we were never crowded. The layout we offer is also easily adjusted, allowing us to move machinery and equipment to ensure there is a safe distance between all of the people working out. Our small size and easily rearranged set up has allowed us to be uniquely flexible in adjusting to our members’ needs.
In addition to this, we’ve stepped up our cleaning policies – which were already incredibly thorough before the pandemic – even further to ensure that the facilities remain safe and sanitary at all times. We’ve even adjusted the services we offer to allow people to remain socially distant as necessary, cutting things like the size of our group sessions to insure people remain far enough apart from each other. We’ve also modified these group sessions so that exercise equipment used is not shared by the members.
The simple truth is that blanket approaches like the one that has been implemented by Governor Ducey are not just ineffective, they are counterproductive and put businesses that can operate safely in danger of collapsing entirely from lost revenue. A recent study conducted of gyms in Norway found that, in facilities like ours that closely adhere to necessary social distancing, there was no evidence that gym goers were at an increased risk for COVID-19.
Not only does it lack a scientific basis, but this decision comes at a particularly sensitive time for Americans everywhere. The past few months have made it hard not just for maintaining strong physical fitness, but maintaining good mental health as well. Gyms offer the perfect outlet for people to work on both.
We’ve heard exactly that from many of our members who had been thankful and excited to finally be able to come back in for a workout. For many, their trips to the gym are a core part of their daily routine, and losing that again so soon has been difficult. Those who have decided to come in have been compliant with all necessary health measures, and they should not needlessly be punished for it because of this order.
In the future, we need our elected leaders to avoid making rushed decisions that lack a real scientific foundation. Instead, they need to closely evaluate the available facts, and tailor their response as necessary. In this case, it is plain to see that gyms – especially those with smaller facilities like ours – have not been a major center for the spread of COVID-19.
Governor Ducey’s decision to shut down gyms unfairly targeted them based on a false perception of their inability to keep members safe. For the sake of gym members and gym owners alike, I hope that he realizes this before it is too late for the countless gyms that are on the brink of shutting down for good.
Bill Nicholls is a small business owner of Anytime Fitness in Phoenix.