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California expected to release guidelines for reopening gyms, fitness centers soon

Governor Newsom hopes to release the guidelines in early June.

CALIFORNIA, USA — State guidelines for the reopening of gyms and other fitness operations that have been shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic could be released "within a week or so," Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Wednesday, noting the need to address the diverse types of businesses within the industry.

Speaking during an online video-conference with fitness-industry leaders across the state, Newsom said reopening guidelines will be released in the "very near future."

"I don't want to say next week, but within a week or so we believe we'll be in a position to make public the guidelines in your sector," Newsom said. "But one thing we also recognize is your sector is multifaceted, and we don't want to be naive and just put out something that's bland and that doesn't meet your unique criteria and your unique considerations, and also look at this from a regional perspective as we do everything."

During the conference, the fitness leaders described the devastating impacts the shutdowns have had on their businesses, and the way they have tried to quickly pivot to offer online training and other services, with varied success.

One of the gym directors on that Zoom call with the governor was Zoarel Fuentes, who works at Steel MMA gym in Tierrasanta.

Steel MMA has about 200 members, many of them now working out in online zoom classes hosted by at the gym.

“We thrive on the energy that we create in the gym.  We have a class.  We have a good time.  Everyone feels awesome and you can just feel it in the gym.  And so in Zoom we were afraid, like what do we do with that?” said Fuentes.

During Wednesday's meeting with Newsom, Fuentes told the governor her gym was ready to open.

“Yes, we are a contact gym.  Yes, there is that fear of when can we do this again,” Fuentes said.

One of the main takeaways for the governor was that small gyms are more of a support community for members.  Being closed for the past two months has been difficult.

“Probably six weeks ago I was probably in the darkest, lowest, a little depressed (mood) here and people helped me get out of it,” Fuentes told the governor.

The gym owners said they have laid off people and some gyms could soon be closing down permanently.

“There is an urgency.  And, I'm not sure if that was fully portrayed in the short amount of time we had,” Fuentes said.

The Tierrasanta program director said if the governor put out re-opening guidelines tomorrow, her gym would be ready to open safely.

“We're not just a gym that somebody can walk in, get a good workout and leave.  There's connections here and we miss each other,” she said.

Steel MMA also offers yoga and children’s classes, so the entire community is waiting for the gym to reopen.

Francesca Schuler, CEO of In-Shape Health Clubs, which has about 60 locations around the state, said her company was forced to lay off more than 3,000 people, a move she called "heartbreaking." She said the fitness industry as a whole went from a thriving sector "with lots of growth, to overnight zero revenue."

But she said the company was "100% aligned with closing the doors. It was absolutely the right thing to do."

"But when you go to zero revenue, you have to make tough decisions with people," she said.

She said when people think of gyms they often think of bodybuilders or triathletes, but the facilities also serve customers with underlying health conditions or who are just trying to stay healthy. She said the industry is really "in preventative health care."

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