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Opinion D.C.’s fitness studios need coronavirus relief

Weights at a gym. (Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post)

Grant Barker is the owner of Second Wind Community Fitness.

I hope, like so many others, that 2021 will bring a sense of normality. But in D.C., that’s still far away, with enhanced Phase 2 restrictions in place at least until March. As the owner of a small gym, protecting the health and well being of my community has always been my top priority. As a D.C. resident, I understand why certain restrictions were put in place, but the restrictions came with financial detriment and no relief.

Without help from Congress, the fitness industry is going to remain in jeopardy across the country because of local operating restrictions and closures. Gyms and fitness studios have been one of the hardest-hit industries during the coronavirus pandemic. Gyms and fitness facilities face higher closure rates than even restaurants and bars. According to Yelp, more than 6,000 fitness studios and gyms have already had to close their doors.

Though I’m grateful that my gym is allowed to operate, all gyms across D.C. still face heavy restrictions: No more than five patrons per 1,000 square feet and no indoor group classes, regardless of the gym’s policies to protect members from the virus. We’re thankful to be open, but the grim reality is that these conditions severely cut into revenue and affect viability.

The reason we need action from Congress now is simple: Other businesses and industries have received support from Congress’s relief bills, but gyms and studios have largely been left out. That’s because facilities like mine haven’t been able to fully participate in federal relief programs, like the popular Paycheck Protection Program, because of limitations and restrictions on what the funds can be used toward.

I’m a member of the Community Gym Coalition, a group of more than 15,000 small gyms and fitness studios across the United States that has been working to try to get Congress to act to save gyms. We are calling for direct relief that specifically will help gyms and fitness studios like mine that are badly struggling because of coronavirus restrictions. This kind of targeted relief for gyms is essential to helping small and midsize facilities like mine stay open and recover revenue lost because of mandatory closures and restrictions.

If Congress and the federal government act quickly in the days ahead, we can save thousands of our nation’s community gyms from collapsing. It’ll empower us to pay our trainers, keep supporting the local economy here in D.C. and help us keep our community healthy and strong. It will also make sure we’re here to continue that mission when the pandemic is finally over. Nothing is more important than keeping our communities safe and healthy. Washingtonians are resilient, as these past few weeks have proved. This past year has been draining physically, mentally and emotionally for so many of us. Prioritizing our health and taking care of our bodies is one of the top ways we can bounce back stronger than ever. And fitness facilities are a critical part of that.

Read more:

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Helaine Olen: How covid-19 is ripping us apart

Rebekah Fenton: Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on young people’s lives. We owe it to them to see this through.

Coronavirus news in D.C., Virginia and Maryland

The latest: More than two years into the pandemic, covid cases in the D.C. region are rising again, , while liberal Montgomery County asks who deserves credit for its robust covid response. Meanwhile, Black funeral directors still face a daunting amount of deaths from covid and the omicron wave has had an unequal toll in the DMV.

At-home tests: Here’s how to use at-home covid tests, where to find them and how they differ from PCR tests.

Mapping the spread: Tens of thousands have died in the local region and nationwide cases number in the hundreds of thousands.

Omicron: Remaining covid restrictions in the D.C.-area, plus a breakdown of variant symptoms and mask recommendations.

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