Virus Outbreak Arizona Health Clubs

A trainer, top, at Mountainside Fitness, works with a client as the facility remains open even as Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has issued an executive order for all gyms to close due to the surge in coronavirus cases in Arizona Thursday, July 2, 2020, in Phoenix.

Arizona’s closure orders are rooted in the interest of keeping everyone healthy as a virus continues to spread. So there’s a small amount of irony that the closure includes public gyms, an industry that helps people get – and stay – healthy. It’s clear that Gov. Doug Ducey’s Draconian orders are taking a heavy financial toll on gyms, which have now been closed for months. It was the final straw for at least one Lake Havasu City institution, Havasu Fitness, which announced it was closing its doors after 26 years in business, leaving 25 employees without jobs and plenty of loyal customers looking for another fitness option.

One can’t help but think that things might have gone differently for Havasu Fitness if there was a more reasonable administration running Arizona’s pandemic response. Ducey’s orders have not treated Arizona businesses fairly.

When it comes to ordering businesses to close, Ducey and company should not be picking the winners and losers, and yet that’s exactly what they’ve done. Restaurants can serve food and alcohol to inside diners, but bars are being forced to close. Retail stores can accommodate hundreds of shoppers at a time, but gyms and fitness centers can’t allow a few dozen people to work out, even with social distancing measures in place.

Rather than ordering businesses to close, the state should handle all businesses the way the administration is handling the school reopening plan.

Just as local school districts are being allowed to reopen based on yet-to-be-determined data from the state, the governor’s office should offer guidance for local businesses about a smart reopening plan. Those safety guidelines may be more strict for some businesses than they are for others, but we suspect there are few industries that actually need to remain closed. Gyms should be able to reopen if proper safety precautions can be followed, and for the most part that was already the case at Havasu’s various fitness centers, where space was added between cardio machines, and sanitation had become the name of the game.

And there’s some evidence that, despite Ducey’s claim that his closures are based on CDC guidelines, gyms actually pose less of a health risk than other businesses that have been allowed to remain open, such as grocery stores and retail outlets. That’s according to former Arizona Health Director Will Humble.

There’s another reason we need our gyms to be open. There’s not a great alternative in Arizona, where temperatures this week are hovering just under 120 degrees. Exercising outdoors is simply not an option between the months of May and October, and purchasing expensive exercise equipment isn’t an option for many of us.

Open the gyms.

— Today’s News-Herald

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