Beach Cities Health District announces gym closure, postpones meetings

The Beach Cities Health Districts Center for Health and Fitness. File photo


The Beach Cities Health Districts Center for Health and Fitness will be closed for the next month. File photo

The Beach Cities Health District announced Thursday that it will temporarily close its popular Center for Health and Fitness gym and postpone or cancel events until May in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Those closures and cancellations will include all BCHD events, including regular monthly meetings of the BCHD Board of Directors, as well as the upcoming March 19 study session for the district’s planned Healthy Living Campus site redevelopment.

The closures and postponements were done in concert with practices urged by state and county public health departments, according to a release issued by the district.

“Our efforts are focused on the population that’s at risk: older adults, people with preexisting health conditions, and women who are pregnant,” BCHD CEO Tom Bakaly said, adding that the Health District-owned AdventurePlex — which caters to children, a demographic group that is currently less-susceptible to the effects of the novel coronavirus — will remain open.

While the Center for Health and Fitness gym remains closed, CHF instructors, trainers and staff will continue to have their jobs, and will not lose their pay despite the gym’s closure.

“Since we’re going to be closing the center, we’re going to reach out to our CHF members, giving people opportunities to work out at home. We’re going to look at creative ways to connect over the next few months…we’ll be using our resources, whether that’s staff that’s reassigned, or volunteers to assist with checking in on people or providing care in their homes,” Bakaly said. Trainers, instructors and front desk staff may be assigned to develop workout routines and videos for people to work out at home, possibly to lead in-home workouts or other forms of outreach to assist with other district priorities. The Center for Health and Fitness has 68 combined part-time and full-time employees, and more than 2,500 members, at an average age of 65 years old.

The announcement came late in Thursday afternoon, after executives from the Health District met with leadership from the local cities, school districts and chambers of commerce to ensure that all organizations “discuss what we were doing as an area,” Bakaly said.

As Thursday has worn on, a number of local public events have been postponed or canceled, including this weekend’s Hermosa Beach St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Village Runner St. Patrick’s Day 5K and next Thursday’s General Assembly of the South Bay Cities Council of Governments.

In an interview, Bakaly went on to state that the health district is postponing the meetings regarding the redevelopment of BCHD’s former South Bay Hospital complex in order to ensure that the community will be able to participate. In the meantime, Bakaly said, “no decisions are being made and we’re continuing to prepare and refine information.”

According to Bakaly and BCHD’s Chief Program Officer Kerianne Lawson, the district will prioritize programs that help people cope with the isolation that can develop from the recommended practice of “social distance,” which encourages individuals to literally maintain distance of approximately six feet from one another in public, so as to discourage the spread of airborne viruses.

“We’ll be using our staff to do follow-up calls, to make sure people have food in the home, to keep spirits up, all of those things,” Lawson said. “In this time period, we’re going to need to be in touch with people more frequently than normal…If people start to struggle and need support services, we’ll be using staff to make sure they’re not isolated at home.”

“I know the district will lead the way in helping people experience community in a different way by helping each other through this very stressful event,” Bakaly said. “We’re coming together like we always have in the Beach Cities, and BCHD is going to help facilitate that…it’s going to be scary, but we’re going to be here to help with that like we have for a long time.”


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