Gyms and fitness centers in Philadelphia will be able to reopen on Monday following months of closures because of the coronavirus pandemic, city leaders said.
Indoor fitness activities will be allowed with strict distancing protocols, but city health officials are encouraging fitness centers to use outdoor space as much as possible.
The safety protocols include requiring patrons and staff to wear masks at all times, maintaining 6-foot distances inside the facilities and frequent disinfectant cleanings.
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Fewer than 10 people will be allowed to participate in exercise classes at one time.
Dr. Thomas Farley, the city's health commissioner, said the facilities will be subject to unannounced and unscheduled inspections from the city health department. The health department does not typically inspect these facilities.
"If people are not wearing masks when our inspectors go in there, we will be closing those facilities. If we have cases of the coronavirus that are linked to gyms, we will close facilities. And if the epidemic surges, we may require the entire sector for gyms to close as part of a larger shutdown. That possibility still exists, especially with the epidemic trending in the wrong direction right now," he said.
Farley said many people might find it difficult to carry on vigorous workouts while wearing a mask. He suggested avoiding aerobic activity in gyms and instead focus on weight lifting or similar exercise.
“For those many people who find it difficult to do vigorous exercise without a mask, don’t go to a gym then. Because you’re not going to be allowed to run on the treadmill and not wear your mask," Farley said.
Gyms and fitness facilities were shut down in March as the city worked to flatten the curve of COVID-19 infections. The city moved to a modified green phase of reopening on July 3, but gyms were left closed.
Farley was asked why Philly went ahead with opening gyms a day after Gov. Tom Wolf reduced the capacity for indoor dining, citing virus concerns. He said he was more concerned about restaurants.
"We hope that we get very high levels of compliance [with mask wearing in gyms], and if we don’t we’ll be shutting gyms down. In restaurants, people cannot be wearing masks. I’m still far more worried about the restaurants that are open in the rest of the state, at 25% capacity where nobody’s wearing masks than I am about gyms where people are wearing masks.”