- In an email sent by Crunch Fitness on Tuesday, the gym franchise urged members in New York to participate in a letter-writing campaign to push Gov. Andrew Cuomo to reopen gyms in the state.
- The email asserts “there is no evidence that health and fitness facilities are contributing to the spread of COVID-19 differently than other businesses that continue to operate,” despite public health officials issuing warnings to the contrary.
- In response, several angry members have taken to Twitter to call the note “absolutely appalling and irresponsible” and a “dangerous call to action.”
- “Opening our gyms is good for personal, and therefore, public health,” Chad Waetzig, Crunch’s evp of marketing and branding, said in a statement to Business Insider. “We certainly understand that some members are hesitant to come back to the gym at this time, and we support their choice.”
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Angry Crunch Fitness members in New York are taking to social media to berate the gym chain for what many are calling a tone deaf plea to convince Gov. Andrew Cuomo to reopen gyms amid the coronavirus outbreak.
In an email sent on Tuesday, the company urged current Crunch members in New York to participate in a letter-writing campaign that calls upon state officials to reopen gyms in the state. While Crunch — which is headquartered in New York City — has started reopening locations in states like California and Florida in recent weeks, its fitness centers have remained shuttered in New York since March.
“We need your voice to get Governor Cuomo’s attention. Help us with our letter-writing campaign that the gyms are ready to open,” the email reads, before linking out to a form on the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association website. A Crunch spokesperson confirmed that the email was sent only to current and prospective members in New York state.
Read more: The CEO of Retro Fitness makes his case for why all gyms should be ‘immediately opened,’ as he warns of ‘a self-imposed financial crisis
At the onset of the pandemic, Crunch froze memberships during temporary closures and has continued to waive monthly fees — which in cities like New York can run as high as $140 for access to all clubs — for individuals belonging to locations shuttered under state mandates. Members are required to resume payments once a gym is allowed to reopen, effective on their normal billing date according to the Crunch website.
In the note, Crunch asserts “there is no evidence that health and fitness facilities are contributing to the spread of COVID-19 differently than other businesses that continue to operate” despite public health officials issuing warnings to the contrary. It also comes following a June report that a patron at a Planet Fitness location in West Virginia potentially exposed more than 200 people to the virus in June, prompting shares of the company to drop by 6%.
Crunch claims in its email to have “implemented some of the most robust COVID-10 safety protocols of any consumer business.”
—YARI BLANCO⚡️ (@theYariBlanco) August 11, 2020
—Laine Nooney @ 🔥🗑️🔥 (@Sierra_OffLine) August 11, 2020
When asked for comment on the backlash, Crunch’s EVP of marketing and branding Chad Waetzig told Business Insider that the company has instead received a “generally positive” response.
“Since we sent our email this morning, we have received generally positive feedback,” Waetzig said in a statement to Business Insider. “We certainly understand that some members are hesitant to come back to the gym at this time, and we support their choice.”
He continued by emphasizing steps the company has taken to enforce safety protocols as listed in the email, including enhanced cleaning practices, mandated social distancing, crowd control, and mask-wearing “except when vigorously exercising.”
“We have seen no data that suggests gyms pose a higher risk in COVID-19 transmission,” Waetzig said. “Opening our gyms is good for personal, and therefore, public health. We are respectfully asking to have a dialog with the administration, to share our plans and work together to safely get the thousands of fitness employees back to work.”
The email comes on the heels of a press conference held by Cuomo last week, during which the governor said there is still no official timeline for opening gyms in the state, stating “now is not the time.” Fitness centers had originally been included in phase four of the state’s reopening plan, but the plan was later amended due to safety concerns.
Cuomo’s insistence on keeping gyms closed has drawn ire from gym owners around the state, including members of the New York Fitness Coalition, who sued the governor in June as part of a class-action lawsuit for refusing to reopen gym. In May, Andrew Alfano — CEO of Retro Fitness, which has several locations in New York — told Business Insider that opponents of opening gyms are “completely wrong.”
“While it’s not necessarily the antidote, getting gyms back open is certainly is one of the things that will help society in general,” Alfano said.
In response, Cuomo has remained steadfast in keeping fitness centers shuttered, which he said in last week’s press conference said “are highly problematic” in spreading the virus.
“We know gyms are highly problematic from the other states. They opened them and they had to close them,” Cuomo said. “We’re here, poised delicately on this island of New York state with this sea of spread all around us so we know we have this storm and we have to be very very careful.”
Enclosed spaces have been a particular concern among public health officials as the outbreak continues to rage across the US. According to Richard Corsi, dean of Portland State University’s Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science, gyms are among the environments that pose the highest concern due to heavy breathing and the possible transfer of coronavirus particles from the mouth and nose.
“When you breathe heavily, if you’re doing aerobic exercise or that type of thing, your breathing rate can be 20 times what it is if you’re just sitting in front of your computer,” Corsi said. “So gyms tend to be particularly unsafe for anybody who’s doing aerobic exercise because you’re bringing in such a large volume of air into your respiratory system.”
Catherine LeClair contributed to this report.