2020欧洲杯小组赛

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The CEO of Retro Fitness makes his case for why all gyms should be 'immediately opened,' as he warns of 'a self-imposed financial crisis'

retro fitness retro fitness
A New Jersey Retro Fitness location in pre-pandemic times.
Bobby Bank/WireImage/Getty Images

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  • Retro Fitness CEO Andrew Alfano is calling upon state officials to reopen his company's 140 low-cost gym locations, stating that opponents of doing so are "completely wrong."
  • According to a recent poll conducted and the Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement, 78% of Americans do not support reopening gyms in their respective states. 
  • "This is not a bum rush," Alfano told Business Insider. "I believe very strongly that gyms are actually in a far better position to provide health and safety than restaurants, bars, and retail that are being allowed to open in front of them."
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When Florida lifted lockdown restrictions on Tuesday, Retro Fitness — a no-frills, low-cost fitness franchise that currently operates 140 gyms nationwide  — was among the first spate of businesses to reopen to the public.

2020欧洲杯小组赛Now, Retro Fitness CEO Andrew Alfano is calling upon state leaders to permit his gyms to be "immediately opened," claiming it's in the best interest of the general public to return to fitness centers despite concern from experts about their inability to prevent infection. 

2020欧洲杯小组赛"[Florida Governor] Ron DeSantis really said it best: If you're in good shape, while it won't prevent you from getting the coronavirus, it'll certainly help you get through the coronavirus," Alfano said. "If not now, when?"

Alfano's stance flies in the face of public opinion polls that show Americans are largely in favor of keeping gyms shuttered to prevent against the spread of the coronavirus. According to a and the Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement earlier this month, a whopping 78% of respondents do not support reopening gyms in their respective states. 

2020欧洲杯小组赛Regardless, Alfano said opponents of reopening fitness centers are "completely wrong" and remains adamant that all of Retro's no-frills, low-cost gyms resume business, even as the divisive debate continues.

2020欧洲杯小组赛"While it's not necessarily the antidote, getting gyms back open is certainly is one of the things that will help society in general," he said. "We want to help the healthy stay healthy. We want to help those that are less healthy get more healthy and the unhealthy just get better. It's really the purpose of what we do, every single day in health and wellness."

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A man lifts weights in a mask at a gym in Beijing.
Fred Lee/Getty Images

'This is not a bum rush'

In addition to Florida, Retro Fitness has also resumed business in Utah, where state officials similarly relaxed stay-at-home policies and restrictions earlier this month. According to Alfano, both the Florida and Utah gyms underwent extensive deep cleans, employees were trained in sanitization policies, and facilities and staffers went through a "recertification" process.

2020欧洲杯小组赛The gyms have also added touchless sign-in and each gym is adhering to state and local laws pertaining to limiting capacity, including reducing group fitness class sizes, he said. 

2020欧洲杯小组赛"This is not a bum rush. I believe very strongly that gyms are actually in a far better position to provide health and safety than restaurants, bars, and retail that are being allowed to open in front of them," he said. "When was the last time you pumped gas and sanitized the gas pump that you just used? The answer is never. But at the gym, if you use the cardio machine, the very first thing that you do is you wipe it down and sanitize it."

Still, protocols around members wiping equipment are rarely enforced or codified, and experts have said gyms may pose a particular danger due to shared machinery and the difficulty of maintaining proper social distancing. 

"Gyms are by definition a tricky place to do appropriate social distancing because it's very hard to space out the equipment appropriately and it's also very hard to wear a mask when you work out," Marybeth Sexton, an infectious disease expert and assistant professor of medicine at Emory University, . "You're almost inevitably going to be in a place that's relatively enclosed with other people and you don't know their exposures or their symptoms." 

2020欧洲杯小组赛Dr. Saskia Popescu, an infection prevention epidemiologist and biodefense researcher, echoed Sexton's sentiments in an , noting that gyms can be especially dangerous due to shared equipment and the high number of communal spaces and surfaces.

"Gyms can be difficult places to maintain social distancing, and the volume of high-touch surfaces and objects makes them uniquely challenging for infection prevention efforts,"  Popescu said. "Moreover, in those environments where social distancing is difficult, the CDC has recommended masks, which you can't really do when working out."

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A man takes a Peloton class from home in New York City, where gyms remain closed.
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

The great phase one debate

Alfano said he was "very pleased" with the Trump Administration for including gyms in the first phase of the Opening Up America plan, despite caution from experts that said it's undermined by lack of availability of virus tests and outcry that the fitness industry dubiously lobbied itself into the first wave. 

, several individuals with strong financial ties to the decision, including Life Time Fitness CEO Bahram Akradi and Equinox and SoulCycle owner Stephen Ross, helped sway the president to include gyms in the first phase. found that leaders at chains like Crunch Fitness gave money to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association to lobby to be included in phase one. 

Still, the power to reopen gyms remains in the hands of state leaders, who continue to hold the reigns over business operations in their respective states. While Alfano praised the reopening efforts of the governors of Texas and Florida specifically, state-level policies remain murky and fast-moving. In Ohio, for example, that the state can not penalize gyms and fitness centers for opening before stay-at-home orders expire on May 26. 

2020欧洲杯小组赛"I feel very, very strongly [gyms] should be in phase one," Alfano said. "Obviously, the federal government agreed with us, and state by state that has changed, which is a little disappointing, but it's something that we're trying to influence and doing it the right way."

2020欧洲杯小组赛Looking to the future, Alfano said he has been personally lobbying state officials in both New York and New Jersey, adding that preventing gyms from reopening will contribute to a "self-imposed financial crisis."

"There's a big difference between what is a health care crisis and what is a financial crisis," he said. "Right now we are certainly, there's is no question, in the midst of a health care crisis, but if we don't get these small businesses open and if we don't get people healthy, we will in fact have a self-imposed financial crisis."

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