While they had hoped it would have come months ago, gym owners in Spokane say they are thrilled to finally open Monday under a new set of pandemic guidelines released this week by Gov. Jay Inslee.
After earlier extending restrictions on restaurants and gyms to Monday, the governor on Tuesday outlined his new Healthy Washington plan that is largely based on the number of COVID-19 cases reported to eight-regional health care systems. Spokane County is located in the East region.
All of the regions begin under Phase 1 restrictions. Before moving to Phase 2, each region must have a 10% decrease in case rates over two weeks; a 10% decrease in hospital admission rates; an ICU occupancy rate below 90% of available beds and a positivity-test rate of less than 10%.
The fine print of the directive allows gyms to open with one customer per 500 square feet of gym space.
Three of the four Spokane-area MUV Fitness locations have about 40,000 square feet , which means they can open Monday with 80 customers at a time inside the business, owner Jeff Carlson said. The fourth location will be restricted to about 40 customers.
“We are ecstatic that we are able to at least start servicing our customers again,” Carlson said. “The restrictions are not ideal, but it’s way better than being closed down. It’s a big step in the right direction.”
Tracie Zanol, co-owner of Anytime Fitness, at 1804 W. Francis Ave., said she feared that Inslee would only allow 25% capacity or some other metric that would have made it financially untenable to open.
“We have 8,500 square feet, so 17 is our number,” Zanol said. “We will be opening on Monday. That’s great news for gyms.”
Zanol said the opening couldn’t come at a better time. She estimated that 25% to 30% of the gym memberships she signs in a year come in January, when people pursue New Year’s resolutions that often include getting in better shape.
“This is good that we are able to open … and able to start selling the month of January, which historically is the biggest month for gyms,” she said. “So, good news.”
Carlson, who said in an earlier interview that after the first shutdown in May, he purchased equipment and hired more employees to walk around the gyms with machines designed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
He also used the first shutdown as an opportunity to upgrade locker rooms. All told, Carlson said he spent about $50,000 on electrostatic disinfectant fogging machines and about $500,000 on improvements to the facilities, including upgrading air-filtration systems.
While MUV was able to open in July, the second shutdown in November made all those changes moot.
Now, customers can take advantage of the new upgrades.
“There was some concern that we would go all through January without being open,” he said. “I think every health club operator was worried about that.
“But now we’ve reached out to all of our key staff. We are beginning to bring people back in preparation for Monday.”
Tara Lee, spokeswoman for Inslee, said the governor was pleased to find a “pathway to reopening some gyms.
“We recognize that it is limited and not all of them will meet the requirements,” Lee said. “We are hopeful that trends continue to improve and more can open up eventually.”
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