Gyms renew push for federal relief amid omicron threat
The Community Gyms Coalition and the Global Health and Fitness Association sent a letter to congressional leaders Thursday urging them to provide pandemic relief to fitness facilities before the end of the year.
The groups said that the emergence of the omicron variant — which experts believe might be more infectious than previous COVID-19 strains — could cause more damage to the fitness industry, which has seen 25 to 30 percent of gyms close permanently since the start of the pandemic.
“The appearance of another COVID variant, coupled with discussions around reinstituting mask mandates and further restrictions to address the increase in COVID rates, demonstrates the ongoing struggle and uncertainty our industry faces heading into January and February, the two most important months of the year for fitness facilities,” the groups wrote in a letter to congressional leaders.
“Aid is desperately needed to address the damage already done to these vulnerable businesses and to bolster them,” they added.
The Gym Mitigation and Survival Act, which would give $30 billion to gyms and health clubs that have been battered by the pandemic, has significant bipartisan support in the House and Senate, but it isn’t included in Democrats’ reconciliation climate and social spending package.
Gyms were forced to shut down for months at the onset of the pandemic and struggled throughout much of last year to overcome indoor mask requirements. While other hard-hit industries such as restaurants and airlines have received tens of billions in federal aid to keep their doors open, Congress has not given targeted relief to fitness facilities.
“Gyms suffer the same hardships, but have not received commensurate aid,” the fitness groups wrote in their letter.
The emergence of the new variant hasn’t led to a wave of COVID-19 restrictions yet. This week, New York City officials declined to reimpose an indoor mask requirement but said that they “strongly” recommend wearing a mask indoors in public spaces.
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