Members of the Rhode Island General Assembly are questioning Governor Gina Raimondo’s closing of gyms during the upcoming 2-week COVID-19 pause.

The following two statements/press releases were sent out on Tuesday.

Rep. Alzate and Rep. Casimiro question governor’s closing of gyms during 2-week COVID-19 ‘pause’

Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket) and Rep. Julie A. Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter) are questioning Governor Raimondo’s decision to close gyms during the COVID-19 “2-week pause” scheduled to begin on November 30.

“I know the pandemic has been hard on everyone, especially our state’s small businesses.  Our fitness industry has been particularly devastated and this forced closing for 2 weeks will have severe impacts for these businesses that are struggling to survive.  While they have invested so much money into safely operating during the pandemic, many of these owners and employees feel they are being unfairly singled out for closure while large retail establishments are permitted to continue operating.  We all want to do our part to ensure that we pass through this pandemic safely, but we must do this fairly for all businesses and not just a select few,” said Representative Alzate.

“As we are about to enter into the tenth month of this pandemic, the physical, mental, and economic effects of this virus are taking a serious toll on our residents.  We know that people’s mental health is straining and that suicides and substance abuse episodes are also dramatically up during these trying times.  We also know that exercise not only helps protect against the effects of this virus, but it is also crucial in battling mental illness, seasonal depression, and a wide variety of other ailments that have only been exacerbated during the pandemic.  We must take a hard look at whether closing these gyms will be beneficial to our residents’ health and our state’s economy,” said Representative Casimiro.

Both Representatives Alzate and Casimiro are strongly urging the governor to reconsider her decision to close gyms during the “2-week pause.”

Senator Paolino questions gym closures during 2-week “pause”

Senator Thomas J. Paolino, (R-Dist. 17, Lincoln, North Providence, North Smithfield) said Tuesday that he is urging Governor Raimondo to reconsider her decision to close gyms and indoor fitness classes during the two-week “pause” she has ordered beginning November 30.

“Gyms and fitness centers have worked hard to comply with all safety precautions so people can work out,” Paolino said. “Everyone wears a mask, the equipment is socially distanced, there is ample hand sanitizer and equipment is cleaned every hour – and also before and after someone uses it.  They have invested considerable money to make sure their facilities are clean and safe. Do we see staff in stores disinfecting merchandise?  Why are gyms being targeted?”

Paolino, a fitness trainer at the MacColl YMCA, said when the Department of Health inspected his workplace, the inspector said it was so well arranged that it could serve as a model for other gyms.

Paolino said the industry has been hit hard by pandemic shutdowns, and ordering them to shutter their doors for another two weeks might be the final blow for many of these small businesses that are barely surviving.

“People are willing to take precautions to participate in activities they enjoy,” Paolino said.  “Business owners and their patrons have the right to choose whether or not they go to a gym.  In fact, many people consider gyms to be businesses ‘essential’ to their health.”

Indeed, with spiking rates of depression and addiction since the beginning of the pandemic, Paolino said health and wellness are more important than ever.

“The weather is getting colder, so people aren’t as likely to go for a walk or exercise outdoors. We know working out boosts your immunity, reduces stress and anxiety and improves your sleep – and all these things are especially important during these pandemic times.  We need to seriously consider the economic and mental health impacts this closure will have on our state’s residents,” Paolino said.