New York City to Require Vaccinations for Entry to Gyms

Within the next few weeks, anyone entering a health club in New York City will have to prove they have been vaccinated, according to a new mandate announced on Aug. 3 by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Proof of vaccination will also be required to enter restaurants and indoor entertainment venues as part of the Key to NYC Pass program the mayor is implementing starting in mid-August with full enforcement beginning Sept. 13.  

"If you're unvaccinated, unfortunately, you will not be able to participate in many things," de Blasio said when making the announcement. "If you want to participate in our society fully, you've got to get vaccinated."

Sixty-six percent of adults in New York City are fully vaccinated, according to data from the city health department.

The announcement comes one day after Equinox Group announced that it would require all of its members and employees in New York City to show one-time proof of vaccination to enter its Equinox and SoulCycle facilities as well as the company’s corporate offices in the city. That requirement was set to start after Labor Day in September. Club Industry has reached out to Equinox to see how the mayor’s mandate might affect its plans.  

“It’s the right thing to do,” Equinox Group Executive Chairman and Managing Partner Harvey Spevak said about the company’s plans during an interview on CNN on Aug. 3 prior to the mayor’s announcement.

Spevak added that throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Equinox Group brands have focused on protecting its community, and now, the best way to do so is to require vaccinations of members and employees.

Ninety-six percent of Equinox Fitness Club members are vaccinated while 89 percent of Equinox Fitness Club employees are, according to a recent survey by Equinox.

“Overwhelmingly, they said they want us to move to a vax-only type facility,” Spevak said on CNN.

So far, members have reacted positively to the announcement.

“They think this is not just the right thing to do, but it makes them feel much better,” Spevak said. “And we're getting people who are saying now I'm prepared to come off freeze and I’m now prepared to join. There’s certainly a population out there that would prefer us not to do this, but we think, once again, it's the right thing to do to protect the well-being of our community.”

Members who do not want to get vaccinated will be offered a refund, he said, but he was not asked about employees who refuse to be vaccinated. Club Industry has reached out to Equinox for comments about how they will handle resistant employees.  

Before announcing the requirement, the company consulted with local and state officials. One-time proof of vaccination can be provided in the form of a physical immunization card, a photo of an immunization card or a digital vaccine card (i.e., regional passes). For those who require medical and religious accommodations, Equinox Group will work with members, riders and employees accordingly.

Equinox Group plans to introduce similar policies in all of its markets and will continue to follow all current local health guidelines, the company said.

Club Industry reached out to several large brands to find out whether they will be implementing vaccine requirements for members and staff. As of publishing time, 24 Hour Fitness and Planet Fitness had not responded. Gold’s Gym said it would not be able to offer a statement in time for publication.

Crunch said: “The safety and health of our members, team members and guests are always Crunch’s top priority. We are actively monitoring the situation concerning the Delta variant and continue to adhere to the CDC’s direction of allowing vaccinated members to work out mask-free and request non-vaccinated members continue mask-wearing. Of course, in those markets where State or Local authorities are mandating indoor mask-wearing, we comply with those directives. At this time, we will continue to follow all requirements and guidelines set out for fitness facilities by government, public health and other legal authorities and make adjustments as required.”  

A Snap Fitness spokesperson said that because its clubs are independently owned and operated, “at present, individual owners can decide what they require in their clubs for members and employees unless a state or local mandate imposes additional requirements.”

Gleason’s Gym, a boxing gym in Brooklyn, New York, began requiring its members be fully vaccinated for entry starting on June 15, according to News 12.

Starting Aug. 9, Row Republic Boston will require members to show proof of vaccination to enter the facility, according to a story on WCVB 5 in Boston.

The Asheville Community Yoga in Woodfin, North Carolina, began requiring proof of vaccination on July 24, according to 13 News in Asheville, North Carolina. The move was made partially because the policy requiring unvaccinated people to wear masks was being ignored by some unvaccinated people, Michael Greenfield, executive director of the facility, told the TV station.

Also in July, Sierra Health and Fitness in Sierra Madre, California, began requiring proof of vaccination, according to KCRW. Prior to the requirement, the owner, Sandy Duvall, had been offering a free one-month membership to people who could prove they had been vaccinated. Since implementing the vaccination requirement, she has received threatening emails, some of which say she might face legal consequences, Duvall said.

IHRSA posted some legal considerations for gym operators who want to require that members and staff be vaccinated. Asking members their vaccination status does not violate ADA or HIPAA laws, according to IHRSA, unless the health club is considered a health care provider because it provides certain wellness services.