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Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Omicron variant is threatening the recovery of the fitness industry.

Why it matters: January is an extremely important month for the industry, which thrives on New Year's resolution memberships. But mask and vaccine mandates prompted by Omicron are creating new obstacles going into 2022.

Gym groups have urged congressional leaders to provide pandemic relief to fitness centers, saying they have received little help compared to other pandemic-hit industries like restaurants and airlines, per The Hill.

  • "The appearance of another COVID variant, coupled with discussions around re-instituting mask mandates and further restrictions to address the increase in COVID rates, demonstrates the ongoing struggle and uncertainty our industry faces heading into January and February, the two most important months of the year for fitness facilities," said Community Gyms Coalition and the Global Health and Fitness Association (IHRSA).

Details: Data shows that in mid-February, visits to gyms were down 30% compared to 2019, hitting a record low for the year but had rebounded by early December. However, Omicron had only just been identified in late November and has since spread rapidly.

  • In 2019, there were approximately 40,000 fitness facilities. By the summer of 2021, 27% of gyms and studios permanently closed, according to the IHRSA. Additionally, the fitness industry lost 47% of its workforce during the pandemic.
  • Globally, gyms, studios, and in-person fitness classes saw a 37% revenue decline in 2020, per the Global Wellness Institute.

Zoom in: Marc Thomas, who owns 40 Orangetheory Fitness locations in California, told the Wall Street Journal that revenue for his best gyms is 30% lower than that before the pandemic.

  • Some gyms in Ohio do not expect to get membership increases until after the winter surge, according to a local CBS affiliate.
  • In Indiana, some YMCA facilities lost 50% of memberships during the pandemic, while numbers have increased by 75%, they are yet to reach pre-pandemic levels, the News and Tribune, a Southern Indiana local newspaper, reports.

What we're watching: The University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that infections in the U.S. are set to reach record highs in the next two to three months, with daily infections expected to peak at 2.8 million in mid-January.

  • Infections detected through testing are expected to top out at a little over 400,000 cases a day in the U.S.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: The end of the Omicron wave is in sight — Transplants rebound from COVID lull.
  2. Vaccines: WHO: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden to announce plan to distribute 400 million masks for free — Government website for free COVID tests launches early.
  4. World: WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older.
  5. Variant tracker

Starbucks drops worker vaccine mandate after SCOTUS ruling

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Starbucks announced in a memo to employees Tuesday that it has dropped plans to implement a vaccine mandate for all U.S. workers, AP reported on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The company's decision comes in response to the Supreme Court's ruling last week to block the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

59 mins ago - Health

Omicron hits American hospitals disproportionately hard

Expand chart
Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

America is seeing more COVID hospitalizations than other wealthy countries during the Omicron surge, according to Our World in Data.

Why it matters: Vaccines keep the vast majority of COVID cases out of the hospital, but vaccination rates are also lower in the U.S. than these other countries.