Gyms, Theaters May Reopen Friday — with Extremely Limited Capacity

Governor Kate Brown announced has announced that some indoor activities, such as gyms and movie theaters, can reopen even in “extreme risk” counties like Clackamas — though limitations on capacity will remain extremely strict.

The new guidelines, which take effect Friday, allow for a maximum of six clients indoors at facilities over 500 square feet. The business must follow cleaning protocols, and staff and clients will be required to social distance and wear a face covering.

For facilities smaller than 500 square feet, the modified guidance allows for one-on-one customer experiences, such as personal training.

The new modifications do not ease restrictions on indoor dining, which has been prohibited since November in counties that fall under the governor’s metrics for extreme risk of spreading the coronavirus, which includes Clackamas and 24 other of the state’s 36 counties.

“The science has shown us that outdoor activities are safer than indoor activities when it comes to the spread of Covid-19, which is why we have clearly delineated guidance between indoor and outdoor activities,” Brown said in a statement Tuesday.

“We have seen over the last several weeks that Oregonians have largely complied with risk levels to the point that we have not seen a surge in hospitalizations that would have jeopardized hospital capacity. This means we are able to make these adjustments.”

The Oregon Health Authority will examine and publish county data weekly, and county risk levels will be reassessed every two weeks. The next assignment of risk levels will be announced on Feb. 9 and take effect two days later.

“Most of the state remains in the Extreme Risk category,” Brown said. “This is an important reminder for all Oregonians to continue to do their part by abiding by the health and safety guidelines in place.”

The Oregon Health & Fitness Alliance, which formed last fall to lobby against the state’s restrictions on gyms and counts more than 450 health clubs among its members, said it is “extremely disappointed that Governor Brown continues to prohibit reasonable access to health and fitness centers for nearly all Oregonians.”

“The new limitations are not based on science or credible data, but instead are arbitrary and unsupportable limitations based on speculation, innuendo and false assumptions,” the statement said.

The OHFA said in a Facebook post that the prolonged closures have wrought “devastating damage” upon the social, emotional and physical health of Oregonians — particular the elderly and those with neurological disorders and PTSD.

A max occupancy of six people is “not a workable option,” the alliance maintained, as most of the state’s health and fitness clubs require 10-15 staff to safely open their doors. The OHFA decried the governor’s proposal as “extreme, irrational and unworkable.”

Some, like OHFA President Jim Zupancic, also criticized the restrictions for limiting gyms (the largest of which are up to 650,000 square feet) to six people regardless of size, while more than 60 legislators and support staff can occupy the State Capitol (which is approximately 234,000 square feet).

“Imagine limiting occupancy in either of these massive spaces to six people,” he said. “None of this is based on respected science or credible data.”

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