Some State Reopenings Include Health Clubs

By the beginning of next week, 25 states will have opened or partially reopened for business after many governors implemented stay-at-home orders for a month or more to stem the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic. (A recap of where each state stands as of April 30 is available on the New York Times.) The stay-at-home orders led to the closures of fitness centers and other businesses as well as a 20 percent unemployment rate in the United States, the highest unemployment level since 1934, according to Fortune.

Despite the efforts to contain the virus, the United States still counted 1.06 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 61,361 deaths as of April 29, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 tracking website.

The White House announced on April 16 a three-phase plan for reopening businesses, specifying that health clubs could be included in phase one of reopenings with certain guidelines.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp was the first governor to reopen businesses, including health clubs, in his state. On April 24, health clubs in Georgia could reopen with restrictions that include screening members at the entrance for signs of COVID-19, implementing non-contact check-in systems, providing hand sanitizer stations for members, providing sanitation wipes for equipment, requiring employees to enforce wiping down of equipment after use, limiting use of cardio equipment to every other machine, eliminating group exercise classes, limiting the use of locker rooms, and closing pools, hot tubs, saunas, steam rooms, tanning beds, basketball courts and other group sport areas.

The governors of Oklahoma, Tennessee and Wyoming will allow fitness centers to open on May 1 with restrictions.

Guidelines for fitness and recreation centers in Oklahoma include considering conducting temperature checks of employees, employ more rigorous sanitizing methods, encourage members to clean and sanitize exercise equipment before and after use, and consider stationing employees in certain areas of the facility to ensure equipment is properly disinfected after usage. The guidelines also suggest that employees wear masks, members and employees stay six feet apart, equipment is positioned six feet apart, and online measures for reservations and payments be implemented in place of face-to-face interactions. 

In Tennessee, the state recommends restrictions such as screening employees and members for illness (including doing temperature checks), having employees and customers wear masks, keeping doors and windows open to increase circulation, posting signs to encourage social distancing, positioning equipment six feet apart, asking members to use one piece of equipment at a time rather than doing a circuit, requiring members to sanitize equipment before and after use, and consider limiting workout length to avoid unnecessary exposure and decrease congestion. The guidelines also suggest limiting occupancy to 50 percent of the legal capacity, including in group exercise classes, and closing showers, locker rooms, aquatics areas (including saunas and hot tubs), basketball and racquetball courts, leagues until further notice.

Reopening of health clubs in Wyoming are with restrictions through May 15. Those restrictions include limiting the number of people inside the facility to one person per 120 square feet, allowing only nine people in each area of the club, stationing equipment six feet apart, requiring staff to sanitize equipment after each use, screening of staff at the beginning of shift, requiring staff wear masks, maintaining a record of member usage and staff working hours. Guidelines also are to prohibit group exercise classes and close locker rooms (except for restroom areas), saunas and spas, and allow only one swimmer per lap in pools.

In Iowa, the governor is allowing health clubs in 77 counties to reopen on May 1 with restrictions through May 15 that include limiting occupancy to 50 percent of the facility’s legal occupancy capacity and spacing all equipment six feet apart. Group classes are limited to 10 or fewer people spaced six feet apart.

In Missouri, the governor is reopening all businesses, including fitness centers on May 4, with certain restrictions in place through May 31 at which time the restrictions will be re-evaluated. All businesses must follow physical distancing restrictions of six-foot spacing between people. No specific guidance was given to health clubs except to say that they are encouraged to limit the number of participants, modify activities, restructure programs and increase cleaning measures.  

North Dakota also will allow health clubs to reopen on May 1 with restrictions. Restrictions include limiting group fitness classes to one person per 100 square feet and limiting the use of saunas, jacuzzi, hot tubs and steam rooms to one person per 100 square feet. In addition, clubs should ensure equipment is six feet apart, close locker rooms (except restroom areas) and showers, cordon off gathering areas, keep childcare areas closed, discontinue group sports of more than 10 participants, eliminate group fitness classes “with high inhalation/exhalation exchange, like spin for example, until such time they can be safely incorporated back into class offerings.”

South Dakota never issued a stay-at-home order, but the state announced a “back to normal” plan that states that retail businesses that promote public gatherings (under which health clubs and recreation centers are included) could “resume operations in a manner that allows for reasonable physical distancing, good hygiene and appropriate sanitation” as well as “consider restricting occupancy and continue innovating in this uncertain environment.”

On April 24, Alaska’s governor allowed some businesses to reopen, including outdoor fitness centers and classes but not indoor fitness facilities or indoor fitness classes. Outdoor fitness businesses must screen participants and employees for signs of COVID-19 prior to admittance and must adhere to social distancing guidelines, including being limited to no more than 20 people (staff included), maintaining 10-foot distances between participants while exercising and six-foot distances when not exercising. Staff must wear masks, and participants should be encouraged to wear masks. The business must require reservations and operate cashless and without printed receipts.