PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — When Gov. Gina Raimondo announced she would be extending the state’s “pause” by one week, gym owner Robert Foster knew his business was going to suffer.
“I am one catastrophe away from a complete disaster,” Foster, owner of RBF Fitness, said.
Foster’s gym, along with the dozens of other fitness centers statewide, has been closed since the pause began on Nov. 30, which Raimondo implemented in response to a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.
“We feel we are being unfairly targeted,” Foster said, adding that since the beginning of the pandemic, he’s followed all of the state’s guidelines. “I see maybe 50 people a week, but the mall can have 7,000 per day? How are we the problem?”
Raimondo has repeatedly said her decision to order fitness centers closed during the pause is based on data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the risk factors gyms pose.
“There is no information,” Foster said. “She says she has data, show us.”
John Heelan, owner of Ripples Swim School, is also frustrated that his business has been ordered to close while others aren’t.
“The elephant in the room is, like, what about everyone else?” he questioned. “Asking a select group to go to week three, but what about the larger group as a whole?”
Both Foster and Heelan tell 12 News they’ve been operating safely throughout the pandemic. They both question whether other businesses that are allowed to stay open are doing the same.
“The air turn rate by a licensed public pool is better than anything you’re going to see in any retailer, any big box, any anything, and that I know,” Heelan said.
“If we can submit a plan and show you that we can safely open, we should be allowed to open,” Foster added.
Raimondo said she is coupling the extended pause with more financial aid for impacted businesses. But Heelan tells 12 News he applied for the first round of aid and still hasn’t received word on how much money he will actually receive.
Foster said he has yet to apply for state aid.