State reps urge Gov. Walz to reopen gyms

A mere .002% of visitors across 35 Minnesota YMCA locations have contracted the virus since June.

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

Five state representatives are urging Gov. Tim Walz to reconsider the closure of fitness centers and gyms before issuing further executive orders.

Reps. Barb Haley, Dave Baker, Pat Garofalo, Kurt Daudt, and Anne Neu Brindley sent the governor a letter Thursday detailing COVID-19 case numbers from public gyms.

“While we share a common goal of keeping Minnesotans safe and slowing the spread of the pandemic, the data simply does not support keeping these facilities closed. It is devastating to the business, their employees, and the health and wellness of Minnesotans who rely on their services,” the letter states.

The representatives “respectfully urge” Walz to consider the data, which do not favor the ongoing shutdown of gyms and fitness centers. According to statistics from the YMCA and Life Time, a mere .002% of visitors across 35 Minnesota YMCA locations have contracted the virus since June. Across 23 Minnesota Life Time locations, there have been just 352 cases out of 3.17 million visits, according to the letter.

The national numbers match that, with the same rate of only .002% of all visitors contracting the virus from a gym.

The executive order that brought these closures caused Life Time to furlough 4,000 of its employees. Life Time joined with Snap Fitness, Anytime Fitness, and Rochester Athletic Club in November to put together a report that called for Walz to reconsider his closure of these facilities.

A Wabasha County gym, the Plainview Wellness Center, was forcibly shut down by Attorney General Keith Ellison, who sued the gym’s owner for attempting to remain open despite the governor’s ordinance.

And, meanwhile, gyms in Minnesota prisons were reopened Dec. 2 for use by inmates, who have also been allowed to exercise outside and in their cells since the closure.

In their letter, the state representatives give stats from the Minnesota Department of Health that show .3% of all Minnesota cases can be traced back to gyms.

The letter also points to the fact that the YMCA provides community services that are greatly missed during closure, like daycare, blood drives, millions of meals for those in need, and classes for cancer survivors.

“Finally, health and wellness facilities should be considered some of our strongest allies in our fight against COVID-19,” the letter advises. “These facilities promote regular physical activity, which improves health, strengthens your immune system, and reduces the risk of many common diseases. It’s also a way for many to strengthen their mental health —another major challenge during these difficult times.”

Gym owners have done all they can to follow masking and social distancing rules in order to keep their patrons safe. The letter begs of the governor, “Before you issue further guidance, we urge you to review the data and meet with industry leaders who are prepared to take additional precautions to keep Minnesotans safe.”