Philadelphia Fitness Coalition creates petition to reopen gyms amid pandemic

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At least 30 gyms and fitness studios in Philadelphia are demanding that the city allows them to stay open in order to keep their businesses alive during the coronavirus pandemic.

They created a group called the Philadelphia Fitness Coalition, which on Sunday launched an appeal to officials regarding the recent shutdown and new restrictions in the city. The coalition gathered outside of City Hall on Tuesday asking for a meeting with Mayor Jim Kenney.

"The mayor has cut off the number one tool our community uses to maintain their mental and physical wellness. If this continues it will be a deathblow to an already decimated industry, eliminating jobs and income for thousands of employees," said Gavin McKay of Unite Fitness, who kickstarted the coalition.

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The Philadelphia Department of Public Health released a statement prior to the protest, according to Fox 29 Philadelphia.

"It is regrettable that places like gyms have had to stop indoor activities, but the way they have been shown to be high-risk settings for COVID-19 spread. By restricting gatherings gyms as well as other locations we can spare our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed, and save people’s lives," the statement said. 

Last week, Philadelphia implemented its new “Safer At Home” restrictions to help limit the spread of COVID-19 amid a rising number of cases. The restrictions went into effect at 5 p.m. Friday and halted indoor dining and closed gyms.

As of Nov. 25, more than 3,300 people have signed a petition by the Philadelphia Fitness Coalition, which requested that name gyms and fitness studios be classified as essential health service businesses. It also wished that they be allowed to "reopen immediately under agreed-upon restrictions and safety protocols."

In the petition, the group said gyms and studios in the coalition collected data on 260,000-plus indoor visits from July to November 2020 and “only 30 reported cases walked into our locations.”

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"There was a 0% transmission rate traced from person to person," the group added based on the data that was self-reported and self-collected. "Not a single person contracted COVID from our facilities."

Fit Academy's owner, Osayi Osunde, who is part of the coalition, told the station that if the business shuts down, "how are we going to pay for our rent?"

"If we take away the last way we can make revenue, we won't be able to survive this one," Osunde said. 

Meanwhile, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said there was "no question" that gyms put people at greater risk of catching the virus, Fox 29 reported.

"It’s only six weeks," he said of the new restrictions, which run through January 1, 2021. "I’m sympathetic we do have lives at stake here."

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As of Tuesday, Philadelphia reported at least 62,620 total confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 1,960 deaths from the virus, according to the city's Department of Public Health.

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