Can Gyms Stay Open Under California’s New Stay-At-Home Order?

Diana J. Smith

CALIFORNIA — Californians who were hoping to workout enclosed by the warmth of an indoor gym this winter will have to wait until coronavirus cases subside in the Golden State. Beginning Sunday, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new regional stay-at-home order bans fitness centers from operating indoors.

The order will affect some 33 million Californias for at least three weeks and will force many business sectors to close, including dine-in restaurants, movie theaters, zoos, museums and playgrounds — whether they’re indoor or outdoor.

As for gyms and fitness centers, outdoor operations may continue under the order as long as COVID-19 safety guidelines are met. Under the new restrictions, outdoor exercise can occur in groups no larger than 12, according to the state’s guidelines.

“Gyms in counties in a region that is impacted by the order must stop indoor operations,” California’s website states. “Outdoor gyms meet the essential workforce definition of an outdoor recreational facility for the purpose of facilitating personal health through physically distanced outdoor exercise and may continue operations.”

Unlike more stringent orders issued in spring, public health officials are encouraging Californians to enjoy outdoor recreation — six feet apart, of course.

“Members of the same household are encouraged to maintain physical and mental health by safely going to a park, a beach, hike, walk, or bike ride with members of their own household,” according to California’s website.

Most of California’s counties have slid into the purple or widespread tier assignment of the state’s reopening blueprint. For gyms this means only outdoor operations are allowed.

Gym owners are allowed to provide a tent, canopy or another sun shelter for patrons as long as no more than one side is closed to allow for airflow.

Outdoor pools can be open but outdoor hot tubs are only allowed to be used by “household groups,” or in tubs that allow for six feet of distancing. Indoor pools, hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms were ordered to remain shuttered.

How are these orders for gyms being enforced?

While there has been some discourse on whether or not law enforcement agencies are willing to enforce the newest string of sweeping restrictions, the state, as well as county officials in California wield the power to cite businesses that don’t follow health orders.

During the summer, Newsom established a COVID-19 Enforcement Task Force to “monitor and enforce violations” of health orders, according to the state’s COVID-19 Employer Playbook.

And through November, that task force stacked more than $2 million in fines against various businesses, issued some 179 citations and revoked three business licenses, the New York Times reported.

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to Patch for comment.

In Los Angeles County, some 31 gyms and fitness centers were given citations in November by the county for defying COVID-19 guidelines, according to the county’s website.

“Businesses that are not adhering to safety protocols to protect workers and customers increase the risk for transmission of COVID-19,” a spokesperson from the county said in an email.

In San Francisco County, officials also plan to cite businesses and individuals for not complying with the health orders.

“Like all health orders, which are legal mandates, individuals are subject to fines for violation of the travel quarantine,” according a spokesman from the county’s COVID Command Center. “Our expectation and hope is that individuals will recognize the seriousness of this surge and do their part.”

And in Contra Costa County, three gyms were cited and fined in the last few weeks for violating the county’s health orders. According to the East Bay Times, Diablo CrossFit in Pleasant Hill and two Fitness 19 locations in Danville and Concord were fined hundreds of dollars.

These citations were given after inspectors from the county’s code enforcement task force were sent to survey local businesses. The three gyms were fined for operating indoors, the East Bay Times reported.

Diablo Crossfit owner Craig Howard argued that the county’s data did not show whether people were contracting COVID-19 from gyms, and that small businesses around the county were struggling to keep up with the ever-changing guidelines, the East Bay Times reported.

While counties and the state have reprimanded non-compliant businesses, some law enforcement officials have said they will not enforce the renewed stay-at-home order.

“These closures and stay-at-home orders are flat out ridiculous,” said Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco in a YouTube video statement posted Friday.

Bianco said his department will not enforce the renewed order.

“He is expecting us to arrest anyone violating these orders, cite them and take their money, close their businesses, make them stay in their homes and take away their civil liberties or he will punish all of us,” he said.

Newsom unveiled the new order Thursday, asserting that it would be imposed in areas where ICU bed availability drops below 15 percent.

In the Southern California region, the ICU capacity dipped to 12 percent Saturday, below the 15 percent threshold that triggered the regional stay at home order. In the San Joaquin Valley region, the ICU capacity plummeted to 8.6 percent over the weekend, according to the California Department of Public Health.

The order will force the closure of many businesses including dine-in restaurants and salons, and will once again ban gatherings of people from multiple households starting Sunday night.

The state reported 30,075 new coronavirus cases Sunday, a 2.3 percent increase from Saturday, adding to a total of 1,341,700 cases statewide. There have been 19,876 deaths related to COVID-19 and 85 died Sunday.

There were 10,624 hospitalized coronavirus patients in California Sunday.


This article originally appeared on the Across California Patch

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