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Mixed feelings from gym owners moving down from 'Extreme' Covid restriction level

KMTR Eugene logo KMTR Eugene 1/28/2021 Lauren Negrete and NBC16.com staff
Mixed feelings from gym owners moving down from 'Extreme' Covid restriction level
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Beginning Friday, people can head back to the movies, museums, and gyms to enjoy indoor activities that were closed in 'Extreme' Covid risk areas.

That list, however, does not include indoor dining.

Also, there will be a limit set on how many people will be allowed inside.

Caption: KMTR

The common theme we heard from gym owners is they're happy to be back, but find it unfair to have such strict, blanket limitations - those being one customer to one staffer for places under 500 square feet, like personal trainers.

And facilities over 500 square feet can have up to six people.

Elissa Doherty and Lauren Hatmaker, owners of Eastside Barbell, are excited to re-open and supported shutdowns and mask wearing, but, "We want to have people in here proportional to the space," they said.

They're members of the Oregon Health and Fitness Alliance, which is lobbying for that.

"One size fits all doesn't make sense in the gym industry," says Doherty, who also works as an emergency room doctor.

As for the risk of exercise and heavy breathing spreading COVID-19: "25 feet spacing in a large, well-ventilated building, it seems unlikely anyone would transmit or pick up coronavirus," she says.

She could see one person per 500 square feet be a starting point, with restrictions loosening as numbers decline.

"I stand with my bigger gym owners and their frustration with that rule," says Kim Russell, owner of MTN Fit.

Russell's 1,600 square foot space will start up with six people and personal training sessions.

Russell already has classes scheduled beginning February 1.

She says she lost $40,000 over the course of the pandemic.

"I ended up selling a bunch of equipment because I literally thought I was closing my doors," says Russell.

Now, almost a year later and still standing, she remains hopeful to get back to some sort of normalcy again.

Doherty says it's not just about working out, but the mental health benefits that come with it.

Again, these are changes in 'Extreme' risk; gyms are open in counties in lower risk categories.

The next assignment of risk levels will be announced February 9 and take effect on February 11.

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