Dear Prof. Sutton,
Yesterday when speaking at the Victorian COVID roadmap press conference, and echoing the Premier, you stressed the importance of using data to make informed decisions yet, in the space of twenty seconds you repeated twice the claims Gyms are a “known high-risk setting” and “cause outbreaks”.
I know from myriad comments I received yesterday that your words were devastating to thousands of gym owners, exercise professionals, personal trainers and gym members across Victoria.
Devastating, because many owners, sole traders and employees see their livelihoods being destroyed through no fault of their own and despite endeavouring to work collaboratively with Victorian authorities.
Devastating, because, by definition, individuals working in the sector have the health and wellbeing of their members as their top priority and any suggestion otherwise is disparaging.
Devastating, because collectively the fitness sector across Australia has been working with all state governments and health departments to develop COVID-safe protocols designed to provide a safe and hygienic environment for gym members and minimise any risks associated with their return to exercise.
(These protocols, that have been privately acknowledged by Victorian Department of Health & Human Services officials as being the “gold standard” are working effectively in all other states and territories.)
Devastating, because data collected by Fitness Australia in NSW since reopening in mid-June showed more than 7 million visits over 500 facilities with no confirmed community transmissions (“outbreaks”) to date, not one.
Given your comments about the importance of using data to make decisions, if you are aware of any contrary data showing gyms “cause outbreaks” please share it with us so that we can make our COVID-safe protocols even more effective.
I am not so imprudent to believe that at some time in the future there may be some community transmission within an exercise facility but the data to date indicates that with good protocols, and positive adherence to them by all stakeholders, gyms can be indeed low risk.