Dear Mayor Siddiqui and Members of the City Council,
As an epidemiologist and group fitness instructor, I am writing to share my sentiments about the safety of indoor fitness centers.
With the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases, measures must be taken to lower community-level transmission. From a public health perspective, I understand that closing all non-essential indoor businesses will tremendously help to reduce the number of cases. From a fitness/wellness perspective, I know that exercise has played a critical role in keeping the community healthy and improving mental health. Keeping indoor fitness centers open during the winter will play an important role in the ability to regularly exercise.
If you feel that some non-essential indoor businesses can remain open, then I would urge you to consider allowing gyms to remain open under stricter restrictions.
I teach spin classes at Healthworks 3 times/week and believe that it is one of the safest indoor spaces in Cambridge. The safety measures include:
- Class capacity at 4 bikes per class (compared to 36 bikes per class before COVID-19)
- Masks required at all times (even while riding)
- Bikes placed at least 14 feet apart
- Gym equipment disinfected with electrostatic sprayers after each use
- Upgraded HVAC
- Installed AIR-PHX to continually circulate clean air
Healthworks has demonstrated that going above and beyond the current guidelines has the potential to provide a safe space for indoor exercising. There have been no reported cases of COVID-19 from staff or members since reopening in July.
As per current guidelines, most indoor gyms and fitness studios in Cambridge and Boston are not requiring masks while exercising (e.g., The Handle Bar, Turnstyle, TITLE Boxing Club, etc.), which contradicts the city’s requirement that masks should be worn at all times. Furthermore, classes at most other fitness studios allow a much larger capacity than my 4-person classes at Healthworks. Many of the outbreaks that have occurred at gyms are examples of fitness centers that did not require masks or did not sufficiently limit class sizes.
Before resorting to closing gyms, I would urge you to impose stricter requirements for fitness centers. Thank you for your consideration, and I trust that the COVID-19 Expert Advisory Committee will make the best decision for the safety of the community.
All the best,
Jenny Sun, PhD
Research Fellow | Department of Population Medicine
Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute
Group Fitness Instructor
Healthworks Fitness Centers for Women