Newsom signals guidelines for reopening California’s gyms could come in June

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that he hopes to issue guidelines “in a week or so” for the state’s gyms to eventually reopen, a slight nudge forward for a flailing fitness industry that has been largely shuttered during the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking during a virtual conference call with some of the state’s fitness leaders, investor Tom Steyer and Chief of Staff Ann O’Leary, Newsom said the industry has “unique considerations” and he understands the urgency of offering a timeline for reopening fitness facilities.

“We look forward to getting these out,” he said. “It can’t happen soon enough. I hear that loudly and clearly.”

O’Leary didn’t offer any details of potential guidelines, saying only that a draft is working its way through the Department of Public Health. Once the guidance is issued, stabilized counties — those that meet state coronavirus health and readiness standards — will be able to move forward with possible openings. Most Bay Area counties do not presently meet those standards.

The guidance is expected to include sanitation and distancing requirements, among a series of protocols that gyms are already preparing for in advance of reopening.

Some rules may be specific to a gym’s particular style of fitness. Dario Tejo, who owns Origin in Belmont, said his barbell-focused gym is planning to require members to designate shoes to be worn only inside his facility and do away with communal chalk buckets.

Like many gym operators, Tejo has temporarily switched to online classes and remote coaching, but he is eager to resume in-person training.

Adam Attia, the owner of Fitness Rangers in Sacramento, said he will have to lay off his 46 employees and possibly close his business for good if he can’t reopen by June 5. He was allowed to open for three days last week, only for Sacramento County to rescind the approval.

“We are literally gasping for air. We have the protocols. We are safe,” Attia said. “Governor, we need your help. We need to do this very soon. I guarantee you that it will be safe. It will feel safe. We will do everything in our power to make sure that people are safe. …

“If I can have 10 people in a 10,000-square-foot facility, I will do it tomorrow. They will be much safer in our gym than in any other business that has already been allowed to open.”

Sutter and Yuba counties, which share a health officer, have allowed gyms to reopen this month in defiance of the state order. The bi-county health officer, Dr. Phuong Luu, has cited guidance from a Johns Hopkins University center in her decision to allow such businesses to reopen. Tulare County has also declared itself farther along in the reopening process than the state considers it to be, putting it in a stage where gyms can reopen. The California Department of Public Health said it had no information to share at this time about potential enforcement actions against counties that exceed or ignore the state’s reopening timetable.

Rusty Simmons is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @Rusty_SFChron

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