Planet Fitness pushes back on Boston gym closing move amid coronavirus

A gym giant is flexing its muscles as Planet Fitness urges the city of Boston to allow workout spaces to keep going even as coronavirus cases rise.
“We feel fitness services are essential to remain open at this time,” Planet Fitness regional manager Steven Lombardi said Tuesday, several hours before all gyms in Boston were required to shut down.
Mayor Martin Walsh ordered gyms closed back down as of Wednesday. That’s part of the rollback of coronavirus reopening stages announced on Monday as cases remain at high levels. Museums, arcades, movie theaters and various other indoor gathering spaces have to shut down for three weeks.
But Lombardi says gyms provide a valuable service during the pandemic and are safe to keep open, as long as they follow rigorous anti-COVID steps. He said Planet Fitness has been operating at 40% capacity, requires masks at all times and regularly cleans everything in the gym.
“These have been effective to keep our team and members safe,” Lombardi said, adding that “physical and mental wellness” is more important than ever as people continue to isolate to avoid spread of the highly contagious virus.
Lombardi said 1.1 of every 100,000 check-ins in the 75 Massachusetts locations of the national chain was from someone who later tested positive.
Walsh pushed back in a statement, saying, “This is not about the spread in gyms — it’s about the number of COVID-19 cases in the City of Boston. Rather than wait until the situation gets worse and avoid a more severe shutdown later on, we are taking action now to reduce the in-person activity in our city, slow the spread of the virus, and prevent our hospitals from getting overwhelmed.”
The mayor continued, “This is about prioritizing essential activities, like getting more high-needs children back into schools. We will reevaluate the situation in three weeks, and if the metrics have moved in the right direction, we’ll lift these restrictions.”
Lombardi said the company would obey the rules and shut down its five locations in Boston proper, plus two more in Brockton and one each in Newton and Lynn that will also close as those cities make their own decisions to roll back reopening.
In the state data on coronavirus clusters, gyms fall under the category of “recreational/cultural,” a designation that also includes movie theaters, casinos, golf and boating; in total, the state knows of six clusters leading to 17 confirmed cases from that group. The data isn’t broken down further.

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