After a two-week hiatus due to COVID-19 precautions and a health order from the Bear River Health Department, gyms in Cache, Rich and Box Elder counties have been given the OK to reopen.
Immediately after the Friday evening announcement, which extended the original health order but eased some restrictions, community members took to social media with opinions about the decision to loosen restrictions on gyms.
Many people said the decision to reopen the gyms was premature and will lead to more cases, while others saw it as a light at the end of the tunnel and expressed hope that things might move back to business as normal.
Either way, the protocol gyms have to abide by in order to reopen still might leave people feeling like things aren’t completely back to normal yet.
According to BRHD’s public health order, gym staffers must screen customers in person or by phone at the door for symptoms of illness, and once inside, patrons must be kept at least 10 feet apart from each other.
Team or group activities are prohibited, locker room and shower areas are to remain closed except for restrooms and sinks, all equipment must be disinfected after each use, and the use of touchpads or sign-in sheets cannot be required.
Standalone surgical centers were also allowed to reopen, but non-essential surgeries and procedures should still be postponed and providers should do everything with conservation of personal protective equipment in mind.
Ryan Gregory, from Cache Valley Boxing, said as soon as he announced he would be starting to do personal training sessions, his phone started to blow up with requests.
“The money I will get from personal training isn’t enough to run the gym but it will pay the bills this month,” Gregory said. “Either way, I am glad to start more one-on-one stuff even though 90% of what I normally did was group classes.”
Gregory said he closed his gym even before it was mandated because of his concern for his health and the health of the members of the gym. Now, while he is opening the gym up for personal training, Gregory said he will be taking all of the precautions outlined by the BRHD in order to still do his part.
“I can’t wait to get back to regular and see my gym family again, but safety first,” Gregory said.
For now, Gregory is figuring out how to book everyone with enough time between the appointments in order to sanitize everything, and he is skeptical at how and where he will be able to get cleaning supplies because of the high demand.
Other gyms in the valley have opened as early as Monday morning and are transitioning to the new guidelines.
Zone Fitness opened Monday and shared a Facebook video of an excited employee opening up the doors at 7 a.m.
Shane Christensen, the owner of Zone Fitness, said they are following all of the guidelines and explaining them to patrons as they walk in.
“We usually don’t have more than 10 people in here at a time anyway so social distancing is easier,” Christensen said. “I really just want people to do what they are comfortable with. We want to keep people as safe as possible. None of us have dealt with this before so we are moving forward with caution.”
Christensen said on Monday when the members first came back to the gym, everyone was being really cautious and were doing a good job cleaning equipment.
He agreed with the health order, which stated that those at higher risk of COVID-19 infection are urged to stay away from gyms, and anyone who enters is encouraged to wear a face mask.
Dan Smith, the director of the Sports Academy, said they have initiated different systems to help keep numbers down, such as using different-colored lanyards for patrons when they enter a new room to track how many people are in each and when cleanings need to happen.
“We don’t want this to be a step backward so we are doing all of the things to make sure we are doing our part,” Smith said. “If we do a good job, it can hopefully lead to a slow reopening of restaurants as well.”
Other gyms are still navigating the restrictions and deciding whether or not the facilities will be reopened. For many fitness centers, online workouts will continue to be an option for people who are working out from home.
Planet Fitness and Kubex Fitness are both still closed and haven’t made any announcement with the intention to reopen because of the new health order.