Exercise facilities are reopening across the U.S. -- some legally, some in blatant defiance of local stay-at-home regulations, and still others with somewhat of a ruse. The message that’s emerging is that there’s a lack of agreement about what’s safe and what’s not, and no adherence to precautions like social distancing in at least some locations.
“Safety protocols are set at the state and local level, creating a patchwork of regulations and uncertainty,” writes Hilary Potkewitz for The Wall Street Journal.
“The most frustrating thing is that there are no strict guidelines. They’re basically leaving it to the business owners, and unless you have a public health degree you don’t know what to do,” Aaron Pols, owner of the legally reopened Gravity Fitness in downtown Atlanta, tells Potkewitz.
“Gym-goers should be cautious about huffing and puffing in proximity to others indoors, says David Thomas, director of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins Medicine. ‘I would want the person working out next to me to be wearing a mask,’ he said,” Potkewitz writes.
Dave Blondin, the owner of Prime Fitness and Nutrition in Oxford, Massachusetts, opened Monday in defiance of Gov. Charlie Baker’s edict that gyms are in phase three of his phased reopening plan, meaning they would not be allowed to reopen for at least six more weeks, Adam Bagni reports for ABC affiliate WCVB 5.
Blondin “has banned members from bringing guests and is not allowing new members at this time. He is also offering extra cleaning supplies to his members and is limiting the number of people inside at one time to 25% of the gym’s capacity. It did appear, however, that face coverings and proper social distancing were not requirements,” Bagni writes.
“In an act of defiance that played out live on ‘Fox and Friends,’ the owners of a New Jersey gym flung open their doors on Monday, ignoring a shutdown order from the governor,” Brittany Shammas writes for The Washington Post.
“Fox News host Pete Hegseth was at the scene outside Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, where a crowd of supporters wore pro-Trump attire, waved American flags and carried signs with messages such as ‘STAY POOR VOTE DEMOCRAT’ and 'My freedom doesn’t end where your fear begins.’ He called it ‘a showdown’ between gym owner Ian Smith and Gov. Phil Murphy (D),” Shammas continues.
Signs outside the door called for masks and social distancing, but Hegseth and most in the crowd were not wearing them, Shammas reports.
“‘We truly believe that if we don’t do this, in the end, we will have zero rights and no say in what happens,’ co-owner Frank Trumbetti said in a video posted on the gym’s Facebook page. Trumbetti has said he recently lost a loved one to the coronavirus,” Steve Keeley and Alex George write for Fox 29 Philadelphia.
“Police told the owners that they were ‘formally’ in violation of the shutdown order in the morning and returned to the gym Monday afternoon to issue a disorderly conduct summons. A June court date has been scheduled,” Keeley and George report.
In Las Vegas, Nevada, the owners of a gym “say civil disobedience is their last resort and they will reopen against the governor’s orders even if it means jail time,” Christopher Redfearn reports for Fox 5 KVVU in Las Vegas.
The Self Made Training Facility in Corona, California, resembles a gym but is classified as a private training facility and reopened on May 4 after shutting down on March 20.
“We can control our environment and there’s not a lot of foot traffic coming in here,” owner Kelly Michelsen tells the Los Angeles Times’ Alex Wigglesworth and Phil Diehl.
Michelsen maintains that her facility complies with Riverside County’s health orders and “has taken extra precautions, including checking temperatures at the door, having clients sign a waiver and wash their hands before and after sessions, and limiting capacity to eight trainers and eight clients per hour,” they write.
But California’s stay-at-home orders classify gyms and fitness studios as higher-risk businesses, which are permitted to reopen during Phase 3 of the state’s recovery plan. The state is currently in Phase 2, Wigglesworth and Diehl report. They also found two other fitness businesses defying the state in San Diego County. In one, no one wore masks and members did not appear to be observing six feet of social distancing.
Meanwhile, “folks in the Sunshine State were eager to finally work out, eat out and go to the mall Monday as phase one of Florida's reopening plan went into full effect. Restaurants, malls, libraries and gyms were able to open at 50% capacity,” CNN’s Amir Vera and Rosa Flores write.
Haley Ward told CNN affiliate WJXT she was excited to be back at Any Time Fitness, they report.
“I'm going to run, work off the alcohol that I've been drinking for the whole of nine weeks. It's embarrassing. I’ve gained so much weight. So I'm just going to run the whole time,” she said.