In three northern counties of Utah, health club owners can reopen their facilities, according to a public health order issued on April 13 by Bear River Health Department, which oversees the counties. The health department had issued a suggested closure for gyms and other businesses on March 13 and then a mandatory closure on March 29.
As of April 13, Box Elder, Cache and Rich counties, which are the counties covered by the Bear River Health Department, had 49 cases of COVID-19 with eight people hospitalized and no deaths. Those counties have about 45 gyms, but only a few have indicated they are reopening, according to the department.
The order from the health department requires that gym owners ensure no employee comes to work with symptoms of COVID-19. Members must be screened by phone or in-person prior to entering the gym. If they have a cough, shortness of breath, chills, fever or sneezing with nasal discharge, they may not enter the gym.
Other requirements include:
- Only one person per 100 square feet allowed in the gym to ensure at least 10 feet of separation.
- No team or group activities allowed.
- No use of locker rooms and shower areas except for the use of toilets, sinks and urinals.
- All equipment must be disinfected after every use.
- Gyms cannot require people to sign in or touch anything to check into the facility.
- Recommendation that everyone wear non-surgical masks.
- Recommendation that no one over the age of 60 or anyone with a compromised immune system enter the gym.
Dan Smith is one of the club operators who has reopened. His Sports Academy and Racquet Club in Logan, Utah, is a 130,000-square-foot facility that includes cardio and strength areas, group exercise, a Kids Klub, indoor and outdoor tennis courts and a tennis academy, a tumbling and trampoline facility, a gymnastics academy, indoor and outdoor pools with a swim academy, and more.
Smith was notified on April 10 that he could reopen on April 13, and he decided to do so because his staff wanted to get back to work and his members seemed to want it, too, he told Club Industry.
"There's a huge physical benefit to working out, but there's a huge mental benefit, too," he said.
Smith had kept his facility open between March 13 and March 29 when closure was only recommended and not mandated. During that time, he had implemented social distancing and disinfecting requirements recommended at that time. Normally, about 2,200 to 2,300 people check into the club on Mondays but that number decreased to 900 on the first Monday after the recommendation and to 550 on the second Monday. The people who continued to come to the club thanked him for remaining open and taking extra precautions, he said.
On March 29, all gyms were required to close, so Smith complied, furloughing about 60 percent of his 261 staff members and notifying members that their memberships would be frozen.
He declined to share how many members his club has, but he said about 500 to 600 people froze their memberships. Members can still freeze their memberships if they are not comfortable returning to the gym yet, he said, and about 200 people have done so since Monday, but about 15 to 20 people have unfrozen their memberships.
He did not share how many check-ins the club has had each day since reopening, but he said that the number is increasing by about 50 to 60 check-ins each day.
Group exercise is not currently allowed. He also is not allowed to run any of his academies or open his pools. Some of his personal trainers are busy with personal training, but they are doing so from a distance or doing it virtually, he said. The Kids Klub is open for anyone with a reservation and is limited to 10 children in each of the two Kids Klub areas of the facility.
To maintain social distancing, members are only allowed to use every third piece of cardio equipment. Signs are placed on the equipment they cannot use. Members also must pick up a lanyard when they check in. The lanyards are color coded for certain sections of the club that are opened. Members can only enter the area of the club that their lanyard's color corresponds to.
He has enlisted membership and personal training staff as spotters at the facility. They not only roam the club to disinfect equipment but also to enforce the new requirements. He is not selling new memberships right now, so this was a way to employ his membership staff in a different way.
Most of the Kids Klub staff was furloughed but are coming back today to complete projects inside and outside the facility to get it prepared for summer.
His reopening doesn’t come without controversy. Several people have commented on the club’s social media sites that reopening was irresponsible while others have thanked him for reopening.
“Right now, I’m probably one of the most hated people in the valley and the most thanked,” Smith said.