After months of waiting, gym goers can finally get their sweat on.
Starting 6 a.m. on Sept. 1, gyms, fitness centers and health spas – closed since March amid a rapid spread of COVID-19 – can finally open their doors, with dozens of requirements in place outlining sanitization, social distancing and face coverings to make sure they don’t become the source of hotspots for the virus.
Since late June, gyms could only reopen for individual, appointment-only training sessions.
Next month, they will have to require face coverings for all patrons and staff—the latter to whom the gym owner would have to provide at their own expense. Those refusing to wear a mask or face covering should be denied entrance.
“We will continue to collaborate with local, county and state health officials to ensure that our members can work out again in a safe, clean, and welcoming environment, and our staff can get back to work,” former New Hampshire Gov. Craig Benson, and a Planet Fitness board member, said in a Wednesday statement.
Capacity is limited to 25 percent to allow for 6-foot physical distancing. Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order, and accompanying guidelines from the New Jersey Department of Health, lay out just how gyms can do that, and they mean gyms will look alien to patrons come Tuesday.
“Gyms are among the most-challenging indoor environments to prevent the transmission of COVID-19,” Murphy said in a Thursday evening statement. “Given where we are in this fight and the overwhelming personal responsibility demonstrated by gym owners and gym members over the past several months, we can confidently take this important step on our road back.”
Gym equipment – like aerobic and weight machines, and dumbbells – have to be kept 6 feet apart, and physical barriers must be installed between stations when possible. Facilities with no occupancy limit are limited to 125 square feet per person.
Equipment would be roped off if physical distancing isn’t possible or if it can’t be thoroughly sanitized in between uses.
Sanitization supplies, like hand sanitizer and wipes, have to be provided at each station “throughout the space for workers and customers,” according to the state health department guidelines. Equipment can’t be used or returned to the storage racks until it’s cleaned.
Signs must be posted on the workout floor to show how equipment can be cleaned and gyms will have to designate staff responsible for sanitization and cleaning, who need to be trained in those procedures. The facility has to keep logs of the time, date and scope of the cleaning.
Gym staff will have to screen workers and patrons. That’ll include a temperature check where entry would be denied to anyone displaying more than 100.4 degrees. Screenings must also include a questionnaire.
Entry should be denied to anyone who had close contact with someone in the past 14 days that tested positive for COVID-19, or if in the past 10 days were diagnosed with the virus or told by a doctor or public health official to self-isolate. Patrons should also be denied entry if in the past 24 hours, and without explanation, they showed symptoms of COVID-19, such as “feverFacility , chills, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, fatigue, headache, muscle/body aches, runny nose/congestion, new loss of taste or smell, or nausea, vomiting or diarrhea,” according to the guidelines.
Facility access should be limited to just the front door; any additional side doors should be closed off.
Logs should be maintained for staff and customers at the gym including name, contact information, and time in and out, so that if someone tests positive the gym and local health officials can conduct contact tracing to advise them, and anyone that person may have been in contact with, to get tested and self-quarantine.
Once someone in the facility tests positive, the gym should be closed down for 24 hours before cleaning and disinfection commences.
Classes and training sessions can resume.
Trainers should maintain 6-foot distancing when possible and minimum close contact. They will have to wash their hands before and after each session, and stagger appointments.
Waiting areas must be closed down or limited, with customers asked to wait outside or in their cars until 10 minutes prior to any classes. Group activities are limited to one person per 200 square feet, and gyms need to implement 30-minute windows between classes to clean and properly ventilate rooms.
To account for a potential lack of indoor ventilation, doors and windows have to be kept open when possible, and fans should be utilized to improve ventilation.
Air conditioning units have to run the entire time the gym is open, and at least two hours before and after it closes, to vent out the entire facility. The units have to reduce how much air is circulated inside, and constantly pump in air from outdoors.
Complimentary towels should be discontinued; patrons will need to bring their own hand towels, water, yoga mats, boxing gloves or other typically communal equipment.
Behind closed doors
Customers should come in dressed to work out to reduce time in the locker room.
Within those rooms, sanitizing wipes should be available, 6-foot distancing has to be maintained, and lockers must be closed or marked to maintain that space between them.
Bathrooms and other high-touch surfaces – such as handrails and doorknobs – have to be cleaned and disinfected at least three times a day. Shower availability is limited to gyms with pools; saunas and steam rooms cannot be made available.
Workers should be provided frequent breaks to wash their hands. Lunches, shifts and other breaks should be staggered to avoid congestion of staff.