[Update: 11:30 a.m. Eastern. This story has been updated with news that Mountainside Fitness announced it would not close its clubs and would file suit against the Arizona governor's order that health clubs again close.]
Gyms reopened in Illinois on June 26 with certain restrictions, a long-awaited development for health clubs and YMCAs in the state after they were closed due to COVID-19 in mid-March. However, a court ruling in Michigan shut down hopes of gyms there reopening, and gym owners in Arizona received the news that they must again close due to an increase in COVID-19 cases in that state, leading some club operators to state they would sue the governor.
On June 26, gyms in Illinois were allowed to reopen with restrictions. Gyms within Chicago, which must follow city guidelines, also can now reopen.
The main differences between the state and city guidelines are that the state allows gyms to operate at 50 percent capacity while the city allows 25 percent capacity, and the city requires members to wear a mask while the state only recommends it.
Fitness Formula Clubs, which is headquartered in Chicago, has eight clubs within the city limits and three clubs in the suburbs of Chicago. The eight clubs within Chicago will open on July 1, according to the company’s website. Those clubs will follow Chicago guidelines. Two of the suburban clubs will open on July 6, and the third will reopen at a date to be determined. Those three clubs will follow the Illinois state guidelines.
Midtown Athletic Club has eight clubs in the state as well as clubs in other states. Most of the Illinois clubs will reopen on July 10. The company has shared a video about its new protocols here.
Michigan club operators initially had hoped to reopen on June 26, but a Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 3-0 decision, ruled in favor of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to stay reopening and keep gyms closed until at least July 4. Fitness facilities in Michigan have been closed since March 16 although some gyms in the northern part of the state have been allowed to reopen. A group of 22 gym owners, under the name League of Independent Fitness Facilities and Trainers, had filed suit on May 22 to be allowed to reopen sooner.
They contended that the governor’s order to keep indoor gyms closed violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws by treating them differently from bars, restaurants and hair salons, which have been allowed to reopen.
The appeals court stated that Whitmer had made a case for keeping gyms closed while reopening the other indoor businesses by citing a Centers for Disease Control paper that said that heavy breathing and sweating at gyms make health clubs places of higher contamination risk.
On June 29, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey ordered indoor gyms along with indoor movie theaters, water parks and bars to close at 8 p.m. that day until at least July 27 at which time businesses will only be able to reopen if they demonstrate compliance with public health guidance as determined by the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Arizona club company Mountainside Fitness, however, will not comply with that order, according to the company's founder and CEO Tom Hatten, who held a press conference after the governor's order was made public. Hatten said that he and other club operators in the state will sue to stay the governor 's order and he will not close his clubs. Hatten called the governor's choice of which businesses to close "arbitrary," considering businesses such as retail shops, casinos and restaurants are allowed to remain open. He challenged the governor to prove that the state's increase in COVID-19 cases came from health clubs.
Mountainside Fitness clubs remained open until their normal closing time at 11 p.m. on June 29, and the clubs reopened this morning, according to a report from the local ABC TV station.
Arizona reported 3,858 cases of coronavirus of June 28, the highest number reported in a single day for the state. In seven of the past 10 days prior to June 28, the state had reported more than 3,000 cases per day. So far, the state has had 74,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,588 deaths from it. Ducey said the closures will help relieve stress on the state’s health care system and give time for new transmissions to slow.
Gyms in Arizona were allowed to reopen starting May 13 after originally being ordered closed on March 18. Guidelines were to keep six-foot distancing, avoid going to the gym if sick or feeling symptoms of COVID-19, use touchless payment options, and use hand sanitizers. Gyms were asked to operate at reduced capacity and do a symptom screening of employees. Gym staff were also asked to wear masks.