Backlash after St. Louis County announces reopening date for pools, gyms, local sports leagues

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CLAYTON, Mo. – There was more backlash Friday after St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page made a long-awaited announcement of a date for the reopening of pools, youth and adult athletic leagues, as well as gyms and fitness centers.

Those most directly affected seemed underwhelmed.

Page announced what he called a target date of June 15 based on continued monitoring of COVID-19 hospitalizations and testing data.

Detailed guidelines for reopening will come next week, the county executive said.

“Gyms remain a high-risk concern because of inability to wear masks due to limits on breathing and breathing while working out is high risk for transmission of aerosolized droplets and spread of coronavirus,” Page said.

Youth sports have already resumed in neighboring counties.

Joe Goldberg, owner of the Trufusion gym in Clayton, agreed with the special concerns about his line of work.

Goldberg pointed to a study in South Korea linking a COVID-19 outbreak to large dance classes with prolonged heavy breathing in small rooms but also showing no transmission in small yoga classes at the same gyms. He has submitted a plan to county officials to start small group classes under a canopy, outdoors, with only 250 people throughout the course of a day, down from more than 70 when he voluntarily closed more than three months ago.

After all that time, people deserved more than St. Louis County’s one-size-fits-all approach to reopening, Goldberg said.

“If there’s no real reason to not allow outdoor workouts, put the time and focus on fixing that now, then worry about everything else,” he said. “We should be able to social distance outside and do workouts. Yoga studios and Pilates studios with lower intensity with social distancing, there is evidence that they should be able to operate. I do understand it’s hard to segment but to just stop everything is really unfathomable to me.”

Goldberg has lost four more clients immediately after the target date announcement, he said.

Contrast that to summer camps. Page has given them a firm reopening date of June 1 with detailed guidelines now posted at www.stlcorona.com.

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