For those who are tired of YouTube workouts and having to sweat in their strewn together home gyms, some good news came from Gov. Gavin Newsom recently when he announced that California will begin allowing the reopening of gyms and some professional sports, with modifications, at the end of this week. With a “safer-at-home” measure in place, Newsom has been moving the state through a methodical four-step process for reopening California. He has already allowed most counties to reopen restaurants, hair salons, churches and retail stores with modifications.
All gyms and fitness centers across California were forced to shut down March 17, to help control the spread of COVID-19, which means people have had to find new ways to stay active and fit. The order did not apply to activities “essential to the functioning of our state.” Of course, it was extremely difficult at first for people to even want to go outside, but as the practice of social distancing increased, soon enough the streets were filled with walkers, joggers, runners, cyclists and more. Unfortunately, many small businesses have suffered at the hands of the virus, including private gyms.
“The pandemic forced us to pause, ensure the safety of our staff and facility and look at the research presented so we could make an informed decision on how to move forward, together,” Kevin Duenas, co-owner of Dynamic Fitness HPK in Temecula, said.
California’s stay-at-home orders classified gyms and fitness studios as higher-risk businesses, which have been permitted to reopen during Phase 3 of the state’s recovery plan. Southwest Riverside County, which is one of the counties that have been granted regional variance after meeting the state’s preparedness criteria, is currently in an accelerated version of Phase 2, called Phase 2.5.
Mark Ghaly, the state’s top health official, said the state plans to release guidance measures soon for counties to follow.
“The plan is to reopen a broad range of businesses that have been closed since mid-March to slow the spread of the coronavirus,” Ghaly said.
Only counties that have met certain thresholds on the number of cases, testing and preparedness will be allowed to start reopening in the next phase. The state’s guidance will also include rules on hotels, schools, day camps, bars, casinos, museums, zoos and aquariums and the resumption of music, film and television production.
“Much like restaurants and malls, there are guidelines for distancing, sterilization and other procedures that gyms will need to follow for their own safety as well as their patrons,” Murrieta Mayor Gene Wunderlich said.
Most gyms and fitness centers, with their doors closed, have had to find ways to engage with and motivate their clients. Many did so through electronic means. Virtual boot camps, Zoom classes, semi-professional training videos and other elements like social media and video phone calls became extremely popular over the last few months.
“We adapted, like everyone else,” Duenas said. “Our kids still had Zoom calls throughout the day and because we are a health and wellness facility that decreases anxiety and improves health and wellness through corrective and rehabilitative modalities, we modified our schedules and hours of operation. It was a big change, but we all worked together to get through this safely, staying healthy and becoming more aware.”
With the announcement made recently about reopening, excitement is mounting for fitness buffs and some locally owned private gyms have already begun welcoming back members on a limited basis. Of course, many are cautioning those coming back to be prepared for new rules.
“We strictly followed CDC guidelines during this transition,” Duenas said. “We set up reopening guidelines to ensure the safety of our clients and staff.”
Members entering their gym facilities will more than likely be subject to social distancing rules, and there is no doubt that staff members at all gyms and fitness and training studios alike, will be upholding new cleaning standards.
“We have established a stringent cleaning and sanitizing protocol due to the pandemic,” Duenas said. “We hired South County Pest Control to sanitize and deodorize the entire facility using an industrial grade antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal solution on a weekly basis. Their defogging system is top of the line for sanitizing high traffic facilities. We also have 20 ready-to-use sanitizing bottles in the facility. This would allow each person to have a cleaning bottle with them, if needed.”
Most corporate gyms were still closed as of press time, but Robert Haynes, general manager of Crunch Fitness in Murrieta did offer a glimpse into what operations will look like when his location returns Friday, June 12.
“We are working closely with state and local officials in California to determine the best time to open to ensure the health of our communities,” Haynes said. “As a proactive measure, we used this period to clean and disinfect all areas of the gym by utilizing the CDC recommended cleaning procedures and products. We already had a touchless check-in system in place, and we will upgrade our cleaning stations and some cardio and strength machines would not be available for use to ensure people remain 6 feet apart.”
Haynes also mentioned that Crunch will be offering a special discount for clients who want to get back into the gym but may be discouraged to do so because of health concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
Other elements like locker rooms, sauna use, tanning beds, etc., will be covered by the CDC regulations. All fitness chains also said they have frozen memberships during the stay-at-home order and have promised that no dues will be charged until they reopen.
“This has been a real struggle for many of our locally owned small businesses, and we encourage them to apply for a $10,000 Back to Business grant,” Wunderlich said.
When asked about what can be taken away from this pandemic, Duenas had this to offer, “This is the most important question. More so, what has this pandemic taught us about who we are and how we can make a difference. I said this to a few of my longtime clients when this pandemic started shutting things down. What we are about to find out is, after 20 years of service, what kind of relationships have we built with our community, our DF family. Did we build a strong foundation? Did we make enough of a difference that we all fight together? The answer is an astounding, Yes! Our clients, our DF families, reached out to make sure we were safe, healthy and able to move past this pandemic. We couldn’t have survived this pandemic without their ultimate support. We are proud to play a small part in the health, fitness, wellness and athletic journey of our DF family.”
California’s coronavirus cases and hospitalizations remain stable as the state moves toward a broader reopening. Obviously, the state is monitoring and preparing for a potential increase in cases due to broader reopening and mass protests across the state against racial injustice, but those numbers will not come into play for a matter of weeks.
“Everyone has been or will be affected by COVID-19 in one way or another,” Duenas said. “Whether it is economically, physically or emotionally. Throughout this difficult situation, we want to support our community any way we can. If any of our families are negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic, we are going to sponsor their athletes until we are back to normal. Our DF Heroes program will be back, which is sponsored by Heroes’ Movement, a nonprofit program, that gives back to our community by offering free training to our military veterans.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic California has reported more than 129,000 coronavirus cases and more than 4,600 deaths. The state’s county-by-county variance is available online at www.covid19.ca.gov/roadmap-counties/#top. For more information from the Department of Public Health, visit www.cdph.ca.gov.
JP Raineri can be reached by email at email@example.com.