Connecticut gyms band together to seek financial assistance
Gyms and fitness clubs across Connecticut that have been hit hard financially by the coronavirus pandemic are joining forces to persuade both federal and state elected leaders their industry still needs help.
Several of the state’s larger health clubs and chains have so far joined the newly formed Connecticut Fitness Alliance. The coalition hopes to ultimately represent the interests of the more than 650 facilities located throughout the state, which employ a total of more than 50,000 people.
Greta Wagner, the group’s chair and the executive director of Chelsea Piers Connecticut in Stamford, said health clubs, gyms and yoga studios around the U.S. recently decided to form state alliances after making little headway in passing a proposed $30 billion federal relief package for the industry, known as The GYMS Act.
The industry also was not included in the $1.9 trillion relief package President Joe Biden signed into law on Thursday.
Wagner noted that 25-30% of clubs across the U.S. have permanently closed during the pandemic due to various restrictions.
“With this relief package that was just passed, there was nothing that represented our industry, as far as the club industry, for assistance. They did things for Broadway and in the arts. They did things for restaurants and car dealerships,” she said. “There’s been so much relief across the board and we continue to get no representation, no assistance.”
Wagner said 62 members of Congress have so far signed on to The GYMS Act. None are from Connecticut, something she hopes the new alliance can change. So far, 16 states have formed their own individual alliances of fitness clubs.
“It’s hard on a federal level to get things accomplished without having the support of each individual state,” she said. “So when we were realizing that every different relief package that would come down the chute, we were not having our voices heard, we decided to start state alliances.”
The state of Connecticut, which first closed gyms in March 2020, is currently limiting capacity to 50%. However, beginning March 19, capacity limits are scheduled to be lifted. While that change will be helpful, Wagner said financial assistance is still needed to keep many of the struggling businesses afloat.
In other coronavirus-related news:
As of Thursday, 54% of Connecticut residents age 55 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Ned Lamont said. Currently, people age 55 and older are eligible to make a vaccination appointment.
The Democrat noted that 76% of people age 75 and older have received at least one dose, which is not a big increase from a couple days ago.
“So that reminds you that you get up to 75% to 80%, it starts tailing off a little bit, which is not a good thing,” he said of the vaccination rate. “We’re going to have to work on making sure that everybody, especially in these most vulnerable age groups, do get vaccinated.”
To date, more than 1.2 million total doses have been administered in the state. That includes nearly 841,000 first doses and 445,231 people who are fully vaccinated. Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb, with 735 more reported since Wednesday.
The number of people hospitalized declined by seven, to a total of 383. Meanwhile, the number of COVID-associated deaths increased by nine to 7,761.