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Reopening Gyms

One of the most debated industries on the road to reopening has been gyms and fitness centers. As some states get a handle on keeping cases low, what should reopening gyms look like? In South Korea, fitness classes held in 12 different gyms were linked to an outbreak of coronavirus in April. In a research letter in the August 2020 issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, scientists that researched the outbreak said that intense physical exercise in crowded sports facilities could increase the risk of infection. However, a widely cited study from Norway found that there was no increase in COVID infections in gym-goers who regularly washed their hands and followed social distancing measures. It’s important to note this research was done in a community with only a few coronavirus cases. Gyms located in areas with higher rates of COVID could be riskier. The CDC has offered a comprehensive list of recommendations for gym employees and owners to ensure everyone is staying safe while working or working out. While most recommendations, such as enhanced disinfection and requiring masks seems pretty standard, the CDC also recommends policies such as flexible sick leave, maintaining small groups of workers in teams (known as cohorting) to reduce the number of coworkers each person is exposed to and encouraging employees to go home if they feel sick.


The New York Times has been keeping an updated breakdown of states opening or reopening phases throughout the pandemic. While some gyms are open, the new guidelines set in place are going to affect your workout. Some fitness chains are offering individual workouts while group classes are still on hold. Gyms aren’t allowing post-workout showers, and arguably the most important, the 6-foot rule is in place. Sanitizing your hands and equipment frequently (which was commonplace in gyms before the pandemic) is a must as well. In New York, where the governor announced on August 17th that gyms would be open by September 2nd, reopening also meant operating at just one-third capacity, using sign-in sheets for tracking if a member was exposed, and wearing a mask the entire time.


In a study conducted earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, flu virus and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in four different athletic training facilities. Gym equipment can also be difficult to sanitize, to the point that the CDC guidelines for gym owners and employees recommend getting rid of harder to clean equipment such as bands, rubber mats, foam rollers, and yoga blocks. In an interview with the New York Times, Dr. Deverick Anderson, a professor of medicine and director of the Duke Center for Antimicrobial Stewardship and Infection Prevention at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. had some realistic but encouraging thoughts. “People are going to have to understand and accept that there will be some risk” of virus transmission, if and when they revisit their gyms, Dr. Anderson says.“But, there are many steps people can take to mitigate those risks.” Increased hand washing, social distancing, and frequent and proper sanitizing of gym equipment after use are all things gym-goers can do to help stop the spread of the virus.


In an article from US News and World Report, Ryan O’Malley, director of public relations and reputation at the YMCA, stated “Y members should expect that facilities will look and operate differently than what they’re used to. We know our members are anxious to rejoin us, but we have to do this safely and responsibly.” This commitment to safety and responsibility may seem extreme to some, but in the long run, gyms and fitness centers that can show proof of work of their spaces being sanitized may be favored more than others. Tulu’s proprietary software allows managers to watch cleaning crews clean and disinfect spaces in real time. When the cleaning job is finished, gym-goers can scan a QR code and get detailed information and even videos of their bikes, treadmills and more being cleaned. Though we’re currently figuring out what the “new normal” is, Tulu can give your customers peace of mind.