For several months now, governors across the country have been working hard to keep their constituents safe during the coronavirus pandemic. Recently, many states have also begun to reopen their local economies after the number of coronavirus cases has thankfully dramatically decreased. While it is both necessary and encouraging that states are reopening safely, there is a key industry which prioritizes health that is being left out in many reopening plans: fitness.
There has never been a more important time to maintain a healthy, strong immune system than right now. And one of the best ways to do so is by exercising. However, several states throughout the country are excluding gyms and fitness centers from their reopening plans, such as California, Washington, Minnesota, and my home state of North Carolina. Here in the Tar Heel State, we are currently in Phase Two – which does not permit gyms and fitness centers to reopen – and we will not be moving into Phase Three until at least the end of this month.
If gyms can reopen safely, there is no reason to keep them closed.
I personally have seen smaller gyms, both nationally and in North Carolina, take proper precautions to reopen responsibly in a way that is safe for both members and staff. For example, Anytime Fitness put forth new guidelines in response to the coronavirus outbreak that includes enhanced cleaning and sanitation protocols, strict social distancing requirements, and implementation of an application that allows members to schedule their workouts in advance, which further helps to control the number of people who are inside the gym at a given time. These are great examples that show how businesses are adapting and remain dedicated to ensuring that safety remains a top priority.
Small, boutique-style gyms are unique and better equipped to reopen safely because their facilities are smaller, making it easier to clean and abide by the guidelines set forth by health experts and government officials. And their owners are eager to reopen. Many of these smaller gyms are not corporate entities – they are independent, small businesses who have been severely affected because the government will not allow them to reopen, even though they have proven that they are capable of reopening safely.
It is time for leaders across the United States to take a stand and allow the small business owners who want to reopen their doors, support their community, and keep people safe the opportunity to do so. Just as the federal government recognized the importance of gyms reopening so long as they adhere to strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols, state and local government officials should follow suit.
Several states have allowed gyms to reopen safely. I hope Governor Cooper takes that into consideration and allows North Carolina gym owners the same opportunity soon. We have to keep our constituents healthy, and allowing those who want to return to their gyms to exercise must be prioritized.
Ted Alexander is a Republican member of the North Carolina State Senate.