Area gym owners frustrated over COVID restrictions


PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Some gyms in our area are begging their members to pay though closures caused by the statewide freeze if they’re able to. Others–like George Comalli who owns Hollywood Fitness in Portland–said they’re heartbroken to repeat another round of layoffs.

Comalli, who said he takes the safety measures surrounding COVID-19 very seriously, has been avid about sanitation and social distancing practices. Since the beginning of the pandemic, he has removed seven tons of equipment to create more space for his members. He also resurfaced and refinished the entire club; installed contactless facets; added dozens of sanitizing bottles; kept up a 24/7 cleaning and disinfecting fogger; and installed massive exhaust fans to move 20,000 cubic feet of air per minute.

“We’ve done everything to ensure that it’s safe,” said Comalli. “We have social distancing. And after 30,000 check-ins, we have zero COVID reports.”

While Comalli agrees Oregonians need to take responsibility and help flatten the curve, he said Governor Kate Brown needs to rethink what closing gyms means for many people.

“I want them to think of us as essential to help people with anxiety and depression and isolation and stress,” Comalli said. “This has been an incredibly stressful year for everyone and we feel we’re a huge benefit for those people and their families so they can get through this.”

Comalli said gyms have contact tracing capabilities because they always track who scans in and scans out with a precise time.

We reached out the Oregon Health Authority asking for data on infection rates or examples of why gyms are a point of concern. OHA said:

“At this time, OHA is not seeing a large number of COVID-19 outbreaks tied to restaurants/bars or gyms. However, with the large increase in cases in Oregon, the risk of spread goes up everywhere. Our recommendations and guidance are based on science as well as the experiences of other states and countries. Gyms and fitness centers pose risks because when exercising people breathe heavily, which produces more droplets and aerosols that are potentially infectious, and they may sweat on face coverings, which can reduce effectiveness of filtration. Restaurants and bars poses risks because people take off their masks to eat and drink, and restaurants tend to be places where people talk more, which produces more droplets and aerosols that are potentially infectious, and many restaurants and bars are smaller spaces.”

Continuing Coverage: Coronavirus

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