Gym owners say that complying with the District's new restrictions will be a heavy lift.
Some gyms across D.C. are struggling to keep up with Mayor Muriel Bowser's most recent COVID-19 regulations that go into effect Wednesday.
The order reads that all indoor group exercise classes must be suspended and all outdoor group exercises must be limited to 25 people. Individual workouts are still allowed at 50% capacity indoors. DCist/WAMU spoke with some gym owners in the District who say the regulations are poorly written, unfair and mistakenly assume all gyms are the same in their ability to keep customers safe.
"We had an emergency coaches meeting last night and there were several different interpretations of what the rules actually were." Grant Barker, owner of Second Wind Training in Northwest, told DCist/WAMU. "It wasn't totally clear."
Barker bought the small crossfit gym five weeks ago after the previous owner sold it after the last round of COVID-19 restrictions were imposed. Barker says he's assuming now that any indoor workout is off limits.
"This does seem a little unexpected and sort of unfair," Barker said. "We've taken really great pains to protect our members from COVID. And it's really too bad because there's no recognition of that or allowance for that."
Barker says he's been trying to keep his members safe by requiring masks, reducing indoor class sizes to 10 people, providing people with their own sanitized equipment, and setting up a new ventilation system. He says only three of his members have contracted COVID-19 and each time the gym followed up with contact tracing to make sure members are aware of the exposure.
D.C.'s Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt said Tuesday that while some gyms have made changes and are following protocols, the large majority have not.
"Having classes and shared equipment that may or may not be sanitized are often cited as some of the sources of transmission in our community," Nesbitt said at a press conference. "People can still frequent gyms, but not do so in a group setting [will] reduce the likelihood that you're having shared equipment that's not properly disinfected between use."
Many gyms are refuting that community transmission is happening at gyms. For instance, the YMCA says that out of the more than 144,000 visits at its 6 locations D.C. metro area, there have only been 10 instances of positive COVID-19 tests. "There has been no community spread of COVID within YMCA facilities," it wrote in a letter to members,
Devin Maier, CEO of Balance Gyms in Foggy Bottom, Capitol Hill, Glover Park and Thomas Circle, says it's unfair to give restaurants more time to adjust to changing regulations than gyms.
"Less than two days notice that it's going into effect ... is not acceptable, especially if they're able to give restaurants three weeks lead time," Maier said.
John Falcicchio, D.C.'s deputy mayor for economic development, told The Washington Post that restaurants were given three weeks to adjust because the mayor's office wants to explain the rules to businesses, including outdoor tents with roofs and walls— which would still count as "indoor dining."
Other gyms that run mostly indoor group classes will have to halt their activity.
Orange Theory Fitness wrote in an email to members that it has suspended all indoor group classes from Wednesday through the end of December "or pending further updates from the Mayor." The gym will be offering outdoor group classes from Wednesday through Nov. 30. Members can sign-up for hour-long appointments to use the indoor studio equipment starting Nov. 30.
However, Solidcore, a boutique gym with multiple locations in the District, wrote in a Tweet that it will stay open under phase two restrictions. CEO of Solidcore Anne Mahlum told WUSA that the regulations don't make sense.
Mahlum and other gym owners like Maier say there hasn't been enough financial support for the gym industry in the District.
"If they want us to remain open and do fitness outdoors, we need the same assistance as the restaurant industry," Maier said.
Falcicchio says a $15 million grant fund will be opened for retail businesses— including gyms. The application for the grant program opens Dec. 14.