SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - Fitness centers and indoor gyms have been closed during the pandemic under the Department of Public Health's orders.
That is, with one exception.
Many residents might not be aware that San Francisco's Police Department has twelve internal gyms and fitness centers, including one pictured on the website for the new Safety Building.
The Mission Local news site first reported Tuesday that the gyms have stayed open throughout the coronavirus shutdown. The Mission Local site says they obtained documents showing more than four hundred police gym visits in just the month of May.
KTVU contacted the San Francisco Police Department and a spokesman said the gyms are necessary and officers use masks, sign-in sheets, social distancing and extra sanitation.
"The Department requires sworn members perform and pass a physical fitness exam every six months (twice annually). Because of these requirements and the periodic testing, the SFPD has private gym facilities at all locations throughout the city of San Francisco and they continue to operate in consultation with our Health partners," said SFPD spokesman Sgt. Michael Andraychak in a statement sent to KTVU.
The police department did not specify what health partners they consulted or whether anyone other than sworn officers have been allowed to use the fitness centers.
"If this is good enough for city employees, it's good enough for the residents of San Francisco," said Dave Karraker, a co-owner of MX3 Fitness and a member of the SF Independent Fitness Studio Coalition.
"There's just a lot of questions as to why they were allowed to remain open and are they following protocols that have been approved by the Department of Health?" said Karraker.
The Department of Public Health responded with this statement:
"The Health Order does not permit indoor fitness gyms and discourages indoor activities, as they place individuals at a higher risk of infection. The Health Order does allow departments to determine essential functions. Department of Public Health does not support the use of SFPD's indoor gyms at this time due to provisions governing gyms in the Health Order."
"I'm going into hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt with no assistance from the city or our landlord," said Mystie Hansen, the sole owner of Studiomix in San Francisco.
Hansen and other fitness center owners say the mandatory closures have been devastating. They say if police can operate gyms, then businesses should be allowed to reopen immediately, in line with new state guidelines announced by Governor Gavin Newsom last week that gyms must take strict health precautions and follow a 10% capacity limit. San Francisco Mayor London Breed set a different date for allowing indoor workouts at the end of the month.
"If a business can follow specific safety protocols and keep everybody safe, then they should absolutely be able to operate," said Hansen.
"Now that we know the police department gyms have been open this entire time, there's no reason that they should delay letting gyms reopen indoors at limited capacity with full COVID safety protocols," said Karraker.
Cal-OHSA says they are checking records to see if San Francisco Police reached out to them about Cal-OSHA recommendations for gyms.
KTVU also asked police whether any COVID cases have been linked to the police gyms. A spokesman said they would need time to check their data.
Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU. Email Jana at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana