[Update: 7 p.m. ET - This story was updated with information about Planet Fitness also mandating masks to be worn by members at all times in its facilities starting Aug. 1.]
This week, two of the largest health club companies in the country—Life Time and Planet Fitness—announced they would require members to wear face masks within their facilities.
Starting July 27, Life Time, Chanhassen, Minnesota, began requiring that members at its 150 locations wear masks in common areas and when social distancing is not possible, the company announced.
To date, more than 125 of Life Time's clubs across the country have reopened in some capacity. More than 100 of the company’s facilities are in markets where some mask orders are in place, but Life Time’s mask requirement applies even to its facilities where the local, county or state government does not require masks.
Planet Fitness will require members and guests to wear a mask at all times while inside all open clubs beginning Aug. 1. Prior to that, only Planet Fitness employees were required to wear masks. To date, the company has approximately 1,450 locations open across 46 states, the District of Columbia, Canada, and Australia.
“Given our leadership position within the industry, we believe it's our responsibility to further protect our members, employees, and communities so that we can all safely focus on our health, which is more important now than ever before," Planet Fitness CEO Chris Rondeau said in a media release.
Life Time created a series of insights and tips to help members and the greater community optimize their mask-wearing workout—while also designing and creating a mask developed specifically for athletic performance.
The company noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends masks to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and the requirement is an effort to ensure a safe environment for members and team members while working to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
"As our clubs continue to reopen successfully and safely across the country, Life Time remains committed to doing all we can to support the health and well-being of our members and team members," Life Time Chief Operating Officer Jeff Zwiefel said in a media release. "Our decision to require masks across all clubs is a response to the ongoing concerns nationwide and, in addition to our health and safety protocols already in place, is a simple but effective measure for providing our valued members with the safest environment possible and to remain open, which helps ensure the livelihood and employment of our team members."
In conjunction with a former state epidemiologist, Life Time created a playbook for team members on COVID-19-related protocols to ensure that its protocols satisfy the latest public health considerations. In addition, the company has launched club safety pages and videos on its website to help provide members and the broader community with information about its social distancing, cleaning and sanitation, hygiene and temperature screening, and other health-related protocols for members, team members and guests. In addition, Life Time continuously seeks feedback from members and staff to ensure the club meets their expectations to help promote safety.
Many health clubs began reopening in June in California on a county-by-county basis after being ordered closed in March to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, after cases in the state began to rise again, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered on July 13 that indoor fitness facilities in 30 of the state’s 58 counties temporarily close again for an undetermined time.
This order came after Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey ordered on June 29 that indoor gyms in Arizona, which also has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases, to again temporarily close. They had initially been ordered to close on March 18 and then were allowed to reopen on May 13. The latest closure order was to last until at least July 27 but was extended until at least Aug. 10.
Initially, Life Time did not comply with the Arizona orders, but on July 3, the company agreed to comply and work with the governor’s office and state health department to safely reopen health clubs.
IHRSA, the trade association for commercial health clubs, sent a letter on July 7 to every U.S. governor stating that reopened health clubs are not the cause of the continued increase in COVID-19 cases and asking that governors not close health clubs that can operate safely. The letter was signed by 61 U.S. health club executives who represent thousands of clubs and studios.