On Tuesday, the California Fitness Alliance, a group of almost 300 gyms and fitness centers formed earlier this year, filed a lawsuit against Governor Gavin Newsom and LA County officials.
California Fitness Alliance sues over COVID-19 shutdowns
In the suit, the San Francisco-based Alliance accuses both California and Los Angeles County officials of closing gyms and fitness centers without showing if they played a part in spreading COVID-19 or had outbreaks form there.
While the Alliance initially formed and sued earlier this year as a way to fight back against financial losses due to the COVID-19 shutdown, Tuesday’s suit added that Californians need to stay healthy during this time, and that recent wildfires and degrading air quality have limited how citizens can exercise, showing the need for gyms to reopen.
While some areas, such as San Francisco, have reopened gyms recently, many areas, especially those under smoke and wildfire warnings, have had their gyms remain closed. Depending on where the county is in the tier system, gyms can operate between 10% and 50% once reopened. In the lawsuit, they demand to reopen.
“We are not looking for a fight,” In-State Health Clubs CEO Francesca Schuler said in a statement. “We are committed to being as safe as possible. We are in the health business. That’s what we care about more than anything.
“[The closures have] worsened the health of many residents who rely on gyms for exercise at a time when the public is being urged to stay healthy to protect themselves against COVID-19. And we may be seeing between 30% to 40% of businesses close for good.”
Other fitness centers and gyms have also applauded the lawsuit.
“We are done if we can’t reopen soon,” explained Los Angeles aerobics studio owner Ash Miller to the California Globe. “We’re on the verge of losing everything here because of LA and the Governor saying we can’t even allow a few people in and get at least a little money flowing in again.”
Health officials warn against reopening too quickly
However, health officials continue to warn that, despite a reduced risk of spread in a gym compared to a bar or restaurant, it can still spread easily.
“Even with proper precautions, it’s still very easy for the virus to spread,” Dr. Malcolm Barr, a UK researcher who has been advising on gym measures against COVID-19 in England and Wales, said in an interview with the Globe. “In an area like California, especially the more populated areas where more people have the virus, a simple cough while taking off a mask can potentially infect dozens.”
“We actually had a researcher out there at one of the first re-openings and they found many patrons putting on their mask over their mouth and not their nose, which does nothing to stop the spread. California, as well as many American and Brazilian states, need to continue a slow reopening. It hurts economically, and as I saw through the lawsuit, it hurts based on needing an outlet to exercise due to poor air quality. But there is no quick fix for this.”
The suit was filed Tuesday with the Los Angeles County Superior Court and is expected to be heard in court soon.