Governor’s office: State official ‘mistaken’ to give Albuquerque fitness studio the OK to reopen group classes

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An Albuquerque fitness studio is getting criticized online after it started holding group classes, which still aren’t allowed under the governor’s health order.

An email chain reveals Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase gave them special permission, but the governor’s office is now saying that authorization should have never happened.

“Gyms may operate at 50 percent maximum occupancy, and again, they have their own industry-specific COVID-safe practices,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said during a May 28 press conference.

Pure Barre in the past week posted on Facebook that it has reopened for in-person classes at 33% capacity with written permission from the state.

KRQE News 13 asked the governor’s office to confirm, and in a written response, the press secretary first said that no special permission has been given to any business.

KRQE News 13 then got ahold of the emails between a Pure Barre co-owner and Dr. Scrase from late May with Pure Barre arguing they could keep their studio cleaner and operate at less capacity than the big box gyms. In the email, Dr. Scrase does give the studio permission to run at half capacity.

KRQE News 13 showed the emails to the governor’s office, which responded that Dr. Scrase was “mistaken to communicate this,” adding that he was out of the office Wednesday but would likely admit he regrets the error.

The press secretary added while gyms were allowed to open June 1, group fitness classes still are not allowed. The governor’s office said it’s getting in touch with Pure Barre to correct their understanding of the public health order.

However, KRQE News 13 told Pure Barre about the mix-up. Wednesday night, the co-owners in an emailed statement said they would never defy a public health order and only opened after given written approval from the state. They said they have closed the studio again and will hold virtual classes.

This comes as several fitness studios have signed a petition asking the governor to let their businesses reopen. It’s still unclear when the governor will allow group fitness classes again.

Pure Barre’s full statement sent to KRQE News 13:

Pure Barre Albuquerque would never defy a public health order; we opened our studio only after we were given written approval from the Governor’s office. On May 29, 2020, we sent an email to Dr. David Scrase, Cabinet Secretary of the Human Services Department in Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office requesting approval to open our studio on June 1, 2020. Through our email exchange about guidelines for our boutique fitness studio, on May 31, 2020, at 6:18 p.m., Dr. Scrase provided us with the approval to open our studio on June 1, 2020. This email exchange has been shared with, and verified by, local media outlets, and reviewed by the Governor’s press office. Due to our written approval from the Governor’s office, we opened our studio on June 5, 2020, following local requirements for reduced class capacity, expanded physical distancing, studio sanitization, and health and safety measures. On June 10, 2020, we were contacted by a local journalist who shared that we were not following public health directives and shouldn’t be open. We immediately reached out to the Governor’s office to reconfirm the previously granted approval and closed our studio while we await a response. We also shared the email exchange confirming our approval to open with the journalist. Our studio will remain closed and our classes virtual until further notice. 

Below is the full email thread between Pure Barre staff and Health & Human Services Secretary, Dr. David Scrase

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