Philadelphia Fitness Coalition Forms to Protest Shutdown Without Aid

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The group, made up of 30-plus fitness studios and gyms in the region, is petitioning the city to change its latest coronavirus restrictions.


Philadelphia Fitness coalition logo

The Philadelphia Fitness Coalition has launched to protest the recent city shutdown with a petition and a workout outside City Hall. | Photograph courtesy of Philadelphia Fitness Coalition

Last week, the City of Philadelphia launched new “Safer At Home” restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus amid rising cases that have led to a current high risk of community transmission. The new rules put many local gym and studio owners, who have received limited government aid, in a position of facing down mounting bills and further reduced revenue over the holidays. Without action from officials, it may be impossible for Philly’s gyms to keep their doors open through the winter.

Many small gym and studio owners have made dramatic changes to their business models in order to keep patrons and members as safe as possible during the COVID-19 crisis. Some, however, have flouted the safety restrictions, hurting the case of the fitness centers who were complying with the previous rules. Despite best efforts by some, it’s hard to know where cases are being contracted and spread, which is why many small businesses are looking for a government lifeline to get them through the winter while they keep their doors shut.

Others want to stay open and be declared essential businesses, in addition to calling for increased grants from the state and federal government. On Sunday, November 23rd, a group called the Philadelphia Fitness Coalition, comprised of 30-plus local gyms and fitness studios, launched with an appeal to officials regarding the recent shutdown. The coalition was spearheaded by Gavin McKay, founder of Unite Fitness, with leadership partnership from Osayi Osunde, founder of Fit Academy; Shoshana Katz, founder of BPM Fitness; and Stephanie Luongo, founder of Sculpt 360, among others. The group has started a Change.org petition (a previous petition from a different source already exists) under the heading “Reopen Fitness Providers As Essential Health Services and Provide Funding To Sustain Them.”

In the petition they explain that the gyms and studios in their coalition have collected data on over 260,000-plus indoor visits from July to November 2020, and that “only 30 reported cases walked into our locations,” citing a “0% transmission rate traced from person to person” among reported, known cases. It’s important to note that this claim derives from self-reported and self-collected data from the gyms. And, unfortunately in a city and state where contact tracing has been conducted poorly or not at all (and where citizens are not complying with tracing), it’s impossible to know the reality of where cases are originating and spreading.

Nonetheless, McKay argues that in small studios particularly “the communities are tight” — that people know one another and communicate if there’s been potential exposure. “We’ve been put in the wrong

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Cambodia reopens schools after virus shutdown

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Schools in Cambodia opened on Monday for the first time since March, but class sizes and hours were limited as a coronavirus precaution.

Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron said schools might have to be reclosed if any students become infected while attending classes. He said students and teachers must observe safety measures because the virus is still raging in Europe and the United States and a vaccine is not yet available.

Some schools in the capital, Phnom Penh, and parts of eastern Cambodia opened last month in a trial phase, and Hang Chuon Naron said the good results prompted the nationwide reopenings.


“As the government has controlled the COVID situation very well, we have seen that in Cambodia the number of cases has not increased, and especially the border control is every effective,” he told reporters at a school in Phnom Penh.

“We have two objectives — number one is safety for our students, our teachers, as well as the community, and number two is to continue education for everyone,” he said.

Cambodia has reported 292 coronavirus cases with no deaths. The Health Ministry on Monday reported one new case, a Cambodian returning from abroad.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— India has added 45,230 new coronavirus infections, continuing a downturn. The Health Ministry also Monday reported 496 more fatalities, raising the death toll to 122,607. With 8.2 million cases, India is the second worst-hit country behind the U.S. But the number of new cases being diagnosed each day is falling steadily even though testing is not declining. In the last week, there have been fewer than 50,000 new cases every day. Many states have been easing restrictions on schooling and commercial activities to spur the economy, but experts fear a resurgence in the winter, particularly as people socialize in the festive season.

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Follow AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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Canada says stronger response needed to fight coronavirus, PM hopes to avoid major shutdown

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadians need to do more to tackle a second wave of the coronavirus by slashing the number of personal contacts they have with others, health authorities said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: People walk in the Eaton Centre shopping mall, as the provincial phase 2 of reopening from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions begins in Toronto, Ontario, Canada June 24, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio/File Photo

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said more targeted measures could help avert another major national shutdown of the kind that hammered the economy earlier in the year.

Released modeling updates show the cumulative death toll in the country could range between 10,285 and 10,400 by Nov 8. Cumulative cases could be between 251,800 and 262,200 by the same date.

“(The) long-range forecast indicates that a stronger response is needed now to slow the spread of COVID-19,” chief public health officer Theresa Tam told a briefing.

“If we decrease our current rate of contacts by 25% the epidemic is forecast to come under control in most locations,” she said.

Canada has recorded 10,074 deaths and 228,542 cases so far and is breaking daily records for the number of new cases.

Suncor Energy SU.TO, Canada’s second-biggest oil producer, confirmed 19 infections among workers at its Firebag oil sands site in Alberta, dating back to Oct. 18. All of those affected are in isolation at home or other locations, spokeswoman Erin Rees said.

Suncor shut down part of the site where 17 of the employees worked, but the outbreak has not affected oil production, she said.

Some provinces are reintroducing bans on indoor dining and limiting the size of gatherings.

Manitoba, which has the highest rate of active cases per capita among provinces, said it would tighten restrictions starting on Monday. In Winnipeg, where most cases are located, all restaurants and bars will close to in-person dining.

Trudeau said authorities know more now about the pandemic than they did six months ago.

“There are things we can do to help to control the pandemic, the second wave, without – we hope – having to impose a nationwide shutdown,” he told the briefing.

Additional reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Moira Warburton in Toronto; Editing by Kirsten Donovan, Aurora Ellis and Sonya Hepinstall

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A brief, intense shutdown would give the U.S. a second chance against the virus

Nobody wants to return to the full-scale open-ended shutdowns of the early days of the pandemic. And yet muddling forward is not working. As a compromise, some European leaders have embraced the idea of “circuit breakers” — fairly intense closures lasting a limited time — that would interrupt viral spread and bring case counts down without the long-lasting social and economic pain of extended lockdowns. Britain’s Labour Party leader, Keir Starmer, has called for a circuit-breaker of two to three weeks, for example, to prevent a “sleepwalk into … a bleak winter.” Circuit breakers can be one-off interventions or regular occurrences (say, a three-week “reset” every two months).

The case for circuit breakers rests in part on the failures of our current approach. Phased reopenings aim to allow as much activity as possible, consistent with keeping cases at controlled levels through social distancing, masking and other restrictions. But they have a number of disadvantages in practice. First, they are hard to maintain over extended periods as compliance fatigue sets in, standards relax — and cases tick up. Furthermore, disparities in infection rates, both between and within states, make sacrifice inefficient. Many towns and subpopulations have already sacrificed more than enough to eliminate internal spread, but a constant threat of outside reinfection prevents them from relaxing and enjoying their triumph.

The underlying idea of the circuit breaker approach makes intuitive sense: After cutting oxygen off from a fire to reduce it to embers, for instance, restoring airflow intermittently doesn’t produce large flames. But add a steady continuous oxygen supply, even at a low level, and the blaze quickly rages out of control.

One study making use of epidemiological models — as yet, not peer-reviewed — found that a two-week circuit breaker would halve the number of deaths in the United Kingdom between now and the end of the year. And our own preliminary research suggests that if society wants to allow a certain amount of social and economic activity, doing so within select windows, followed by short-term shutdowns, will lead to fewer cases than allowing the same amount of activity to occur across unbroken stretches of time.

Using mathematical techniques, our work explored questions like this one: Suppose a town wishes to allow 1,000 small but risky activities like haircuts, ballgames, academic classes and small social gatherings over the course of a month. Is it better to put all the activities in one half of the month or space them out evenly? The mathematical answer is that concentrated sacrifice, followed by a period of relative openness, beats sacrifice that is spread out consistently over time. The size of the impact depends on many factors, but a typical analysis finds that 10 to 20 percent more activity might be possible (for the same amount of disease spread) when the activity is more concentrated.

Of course, not all activities can be shifted in time, so necessary events like urgent medical procedures would continue during a circuit-breaker shutdown. Additionally, when a month of activity

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Fitness Industry Shutdown Punishes RivCo’s Less Affluent

RIVERSIDE COUNTY, CA — Ryan Gallagher owns eight Planet Fitness franchises in Riverside County, and for the third time since March he’s had to lay off 120 employees.

The latest lay-off came this week when state officials announced that Riverside County was moved back into the state’s most restrictive “purple tier” to prevent further coronavirus spread. The news impacted several industries. For gyms and fitness centers, it means all operations must move outdoors or close.

Moving thousands of dollars worth of fitness equipment outside, exposing it to weather and theft, is daunting for Gallagher. Where space provides at certain Planet Fitness locations, outdoor tents could be erected, but 24-hour security would still need to be in place to protect about 20,000-square-feet of equipment, which is the approximate size of each gym, he said.

The monthly $10 membership fee charged to Planet Fitness customers makes the outdoor scenario cost prohibitive, Gallagher explained.

“It’s not economically viable. We can’t do it,” he said.

Friday Gallagher was closing all eight Planet Fitness gyms. It’s ironic because he and other fitness leaders helped draft the state’s 16-page COVID-19 Industry Guidance for Fitness Facilities, he said. Not only did Gallagher adhere to the state guidance — which includes physical distancing, face coverings for members and employees, disinfection stations, and regular stringent cleaning of equipment — he also followed Planet Fitness’s 90-page health document that aims to prevent COVID-19 spread at its facilities, he said.

Gallagher pointed out that it’s not just facility owners who are struggling. Preventing access to less expensive fitness centers is harming lower-income people who rely on gyms to get a safe workout.

For people with resources and larger living spaces, home gyms might be practical — not so for apartment dwellers on tight budgets. Plus, people in more disadvantaged communities may be leery about taking an exercise routine, like running and walking, outdoors due to concerns about elevated crime in their areas.

Gallagher calls the inequity “an unintended consequence” of gym shutdowns.

“California was the leader of fitness in the country,” he said, claiming that Planet Fitness franchises in all other states are currently operating at some capacity.

“Fitness is essential for physical and mental wellbeing,” he continued. “[Our clients] can’t even relieve the stress [brought on by the pandemic].”

Data have shown that people most impacted by COVID-19 have underlying health conditions — many are also people of color living in economically disadvantaged communities. This is the demographic, Gallagher said, that can benefit most from access to low-cost fitness to help stave off myriad health problems.

“Keeping gyms closed is making people sicker,” Gallagher said.

Under the purple tier that Riverside County is now in, he said there’s a strange irony: “People can fly across the country in a plane for hours, but they can’t go work out in a gym for 45 minutes.”

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