Raleigh, N.C. — Several gym chains plan to reopen their doors in North Carolina on Tuesday, ahead of a possible announcement from Gov. Roy Cooper allowing a range of exercise facilities statewide to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic.
For now, Cooper’s order that gyms remain closed to limit the spread of the virus remains in effect, but Crunch Fitness and Planet Fitness both announced over the weekend that they are using a medical exception outlined in the executive order that allows gyms to serve members who have a medical need to exercise.
O2 Fitness and Orangetheory Fitness said Monday that they also will reopen across the state on Tuesday.
Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services, reiterated last week that gyms have remained closed because people breathe heavier during exercise, increasing the chance that the virus could be spread through respiratory droplets in the air.
C.J. Bouchard, president of Excel Fitness Holdings, which owns 70 Planet Fitness locations, including locations in North Carolina, said the major fitness centers formed an alliance to come up with a responsible reopening plan.
“We came together because we felt like we really needed to educate people on why fitness is essential and why we should be open,” Bouchard said. “Our own data shows great results and the fact that we are safe.”
He said only 127 coronavirus infections have been reported among the 45 million check-ins at Planet Fitness locations across the country.
Some other North Carolina gyms, including Gold’s Gym, have already used the medical necessity loophole to reopen.
In a letter to its members, Planet Fitness said, “In efforts to respect your privacy, we will not be requiring medical documentation upon check-in.”
Gyms aren’t allowed to ask members for medical waivers or to talk about medical history because of the Americans with Disabilities Act and medical privacy laws.
Other gyms in North Carolina have opened their doors with a stipulation that people working out must have a doctor’s note – but they can’t ask to see it.
Planet Fitness said employees will take additional steps to help stop the spread of coronavirus, including daily temperature checks, increased cleaning, implementing a touch-less check-in process and blocking off pieces of equipment for social distancing.
Crunch Fitness said that, in addition to reopening its gyms, there will also be an outdoor area for people to exercise.
“I belong there. I work out there. I have been looking forward to getting back in the gym,” Crunch Fitness member Matt Walk said. “We have been trying to work out at home, for example, and there is only so much you can do.”
Still, Walk said he will weigh the risk and the reward once the gym reopens.
“If there is, like, mass crowds that show up , I am not sure that I would be ready to work out at that point,” he said. “But if it is socially sort of distanced and not too crowded, I would probably go and work out in there.”
YMCA of the Triangle said its branches aren’t ready yet to reopen their fitness facilities.
“We continue to serve our members through modified programming, such as outdoor group fitness classes and strength training. Our indoor pools are open, and we are extending our outdoor pool schedules through the fall,” the YMCA said in a statement. “Our YMCAs have spent months preparing to reopen and feel confident in our ability to do so when we can serve all of our members.”