Governor Jay Inslee
Office of the Governor
PO Box 40002
Olympia, WA 98504-0002
Dear Governor Inslee,
We continue to see record numbers of COVID-19 cases and related metrics, Washington Fitness Alliance echoes your concern about this virus and the threat it poses for so many in our state. But we are also seeing the development of debilitating long-term effects that restricted access to health and fitness facilities is having on the physical and mental health of the people in our state. We urge you, on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians who manage their physical, social and emotional wellness by accessing facilities represented by WFA, to allow for a safe and limited reopening of indoor fitness facilities in all counties.
Health and fitness, youth sports and recreational facilities across our state continue to hear desperate, emotional pleas from those who are begging to be allowed to return to their health and wellness routine. These pleas are coming from those who are not simply seeking to return to the weight room or to utilize a treadmill as treacherous winter weather prohibits continuing to exercise outdoors. But many of these requests come from those that utilize fitness and wellness centers year round to manage chronic diseases or mental health. We have heard from members with Parkinson’s who, before the first shutdown, could walk 1-2 miles unaided and now cannot get up from their wheelchair. We have heard from the elderly and disabled veterans who are suffering without access to our recumbent bikes and therapy pools. And we have heard from young people working at home, parents charged with homeschooling, and youth from vulnerable communities who are begging to return to their fitness routines in order to maintain their mental health during one of the most challenging years our generation will endure.
As experts in the health and wellness industry, our top priority is the health and well being of those that participate in our programs and use our facilities. To make this possible, indoor recreational and fitness facilities have taken significant measures to protect the health and safety of all participants with protocols in place of to mandate mask use, monitoring and providing appropriate space and capacity limits for social distancing and heightened the levels of sanitization throughout. Many facilities have made significant investments in new, high-quality ventilation systems to further ensure the purification of indoor air and increased rates of air exchanges in activity spaces.
The recent study released by University of Oregon’s Oregon Consulting Group, showed no correlation between fitness facilities and COVID-19 cases based on a case study in Colorado. This is especially significant because this study traced not only employees, but also customers and residents. It also steps outside of the outbreak tracing to compare to actual cases. Moreover, a recent study in New York found that of 46,000 COVID cases, only 0.06% could be traced to gyms. The December 10th Washington Statewide Outbreak Report from Washington’s Department of Health does not show any outbreaks from gyms or fitness facilities out of the 1841 reported “non – health care congregate settings” outbreaks. WFA recognizes that gyms and fitness facilities may be grouped into the leisure/hospitality/recreation category – if so, there have only been 33 total cases (1.7%) from that combined sector. To date, we have not seen any publicly reported outbreaks originating from fitness facilities.
The data available now provides evidence that our facilities are safe. We also know that preventing access to these vital, sometimes life-sustaining wellness services, the more significant long-term impacts will be the longer this shutdown continues. Therefore we are including a number of recommendations for your consideration meant to provide us all with a risk assessment framework which considers factors of occupancy levels, masking, length of time in facilities by individuals and the quality of air within the facility.
Today, we ask for you and your advisory team to reconsider this current state of shutdown. Services provided by these facilities are vital and essential to the health of those in our communities. Their access to these services is desperately needed before the physical and emotional health of many deteriorates even further. We want to help you lead the way for a strong, healthy recovery in our state. By providing these safe opportunities, especially during the wintertime, when staying active and healthy is exceptionally challenging, we can be part of your solution.
Washington Fitness Alliance Board of Directors
Blair McHaney, WORX of Wenatchee Valley
Joel Tallman, MUV Brands
Evy Gillin, Wenatchee Racquet & Athletic Club
Allen Oskoul, Columbia Athletic Club
Jack Tawney, Harbor Square Athletic Club
Jen Masterson, PRO Club
Melissa Cote, Orangetheory Fitness
Shelly Stockman, Bainbridge Athletic Club
Sherri McMillan, Northwest Personal Training