Colorado gyms safer during pandemic than previously thought

Colorado gyms and health clubs have accounted for “no outbreaks” of COVID-19, according to CDPHE statistics analyzed by researchers at the University of Oregon. (Provided by Planet Fitness)

With many gym members still wondering about the safety of their clubs and fitness industry officials warning they are facing a fight for survival, an analysis of Colorado health data by researchers at the University of Oregon suggests there has been little spread of COVID-19 in the state’s gyms.

The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, which commissioned the study, reported in October that its data showed a minuscule infection rate in U.S. gyms of 1,155 cases out of 49.4 million gym check-ins (0.0023{b5d304c96e94113bdfc523ff4218a1efff4746200bdb9eeb3214a56a1302f2e4}). Then it asked the Oregon Consulting Group, based in the University of Oregon’s college of business, to conduct an independent study. Those researchers picked Colorado to study, analyzing data provided by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The study, based on CDPHE statistics through Nov. 18,  was published Dec. 7. It covered 32 weeks of Colorado gym attendance data, representing nearly 8.5 million check-ins, and found no link to 59 outbreaks reported by CDPHE.

“Available data suggests that compared to other settings, gyms are not a prevalent source of COVID-19 outbreaks,” the study said. “There were no outbreaks reported in gyms or comparable athletic facilities.” An outbreak is defined as a transmission event that includes two or more people in a workplace or facility setting.

RELATED: How Colorado’s COVID-19 restrictions affect gyms, fitness studios

The data indicated that gyms are safer than bars, restaurants and grocery stores, while more than half COVID-19 outbreaks came from “health care settings.”

Colorado gyms are seeking Five Star certifications from their counties in order to move from Level Red capacity restrictions to Level Orange, a program announced last week by CDPHE. Gym capacities in Level Red counties were cut last month from 25{b5d304c96e94113bdfc523ff4218a1efff4746200bdb9eeb3214a56a1302f2e4} to 10{b5d304c96e94113bdfc523ff4218a1efff4746200bdb9eeb3214a56a1302f2e4}, which industry officials called “unsustainable” for their businesses.

The Colorado Fitness Coalition, which was created in August to speak for the industry with one voice, said the state is facing the loss of an estimated 200 gyms, 22,000 jobs and $12 million in payroll taxes if restrictions aren’t eased soon. In a typical year, the Colorado fitness industry generates $695 million, the coalition said.

RELATED: Colorado gyms say 10{b5d304c96e94113bdfc523ff4218a1efff4746200bdb9eeb3214a56a1302f2e4} capacity limits are “not survivable” for us

“Gyms are continuing to struggle at a dramatic rate and we are losing more and more gyms,” said JoAnna Masloski, a member of the coalition’s advisory board and chief operating officer for the Colorado Athletic Club’s seven Front Range facilities. “We need to get to a higher capacity to survive. We’re not spreaders. We’re working as hard as we can to get this Five Star certification.

“But either way, we’re not spreaders and we are being punished, unlike malls — uncontrolled environments, uncontrolled people walking around and touching each other,” Masloski said. “They’re not getting punished, and our gyms are in dire straits. We’re going to malls and saying, ‘Oh, my God, our businesses are about to die, and you’re not controlling them.’ ”

“We don’t want to harm any industry, we just want people to know we are safe,” she said. “We are a controlled environment. It’s now proven that is the case. We need to get our capacity increased.”

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