.003% of COVID cases come from gyms, owners say it’s time to reopen

Minnesota gyms say they should be allowed to reopen because "only .003% of all positive [coronavirus] cases" in the state have come from workout facilities.

Background: Life Time/Facebook. Left: Gov. Tim Walz/Minnesota Governor's Office

A coalition of Minnesota gyms presented state officials with a lengthy argument for reopening this week, claiming that all available data suggest that fitness centers should remain open.

Life Time, Snap Fitness, Anytime Fitness and the Rochester Athletic Club contend that gym closures are unnecessary given the low spread of COVID-19 in fitness centers. They argue that the data actually support keeping gyms open amid a public health crisis.

Their argument relies on a variety of datasets, peer-reviewed studies and government sources, which are all cited in their report.

The report claims that the available “data show that health and fitness clubs reopened with mitigation protocols are not materially contributing to community spread.” This is evidenced by studies of coronavirus transmission in gyms in both Minnesota and five other states. Two studies included in the report tracked 49.4 million gym visits and 3.07 million gym visits, which resulted in infection rates of .0023% and .01%, respectively.

“Based on data collected from 2,873 health clubs from reopening through September 2020, the industry tracked 49.4 million visits against 1,155 positive cases, which was equivalent to a .0023% infection rate. Recognizing that community spread has increased since then, Life Time examined its own Minnesota data through November 18, reflecting nearly five months of operation of its 23 Minnesota clubs since reopening on June 10, 2020. Life Time has logged more than 3.17 million visits by members and team members in our Minnesota clubs. Among that group, only 352 have reported a positive test result, or .01%,” the report states.

Further analysis found that “only .003% of all positive cases” in Minnesota came from a gym or health club.

Even in England, the report says, nearly 18 times as many people contract coronavirus from establishments like restaurants than from gyms.

The report also claims that closures are unfair to the fitness industry. While workout facilities are forced to close, “numerous other businesses (with similar or even more relaxed mitigation measures) are allowed to remain open.” The release then goes on to highlight how tattoo parlors, tanning salons, convenience stores, liquor stores, airport food courts and retail stores are all allowed to continue operation.

The gyms responsible for the report then volunteer that they are willing to self regulate beyond what is required of other industries if the governor agrees to let them open. The measures that Minnesota’s gyms are willing to implement are seen below.

“Health clubs contribute to the health and wellbeing of Minnesota’s citizens,” and are therefore a critical aspect of a coronavirus mitigation strategy, the report concludes.

“Regular exercise … boosts the immune system, which helps fight COVID-19,” the document states, citing well-established, peer-reviewed research to support this claim. The report also adds that maintaining respiratory fitness can directly mitigate illnesses that attack the lungs like coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Life Time has called on the governor’s office to prove that it indeed does have data to support continued closures.

Life Time alone said the new round of gym closures means it had to furlough 4,000 of its workers. Minnesota jobless claims remain at their highest recent levels since the 2009 recession, according to data collected by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, presented by Minnesota Compass.