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Masked workouts and no indoor cardio: Gyms prepare to reopen under tight Santa Clara County rules

To make space for the approximately 50 children enrolled in YMCA's child care program, rooms were vacated of their workout equipment and put into one big exercise room at the YMCA in Mountain View on April 2, 2020. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

UPDATE: On July 13, the day Santa Clara County allowed fitness centers to reopen, the county Public Health Department released a statement in the afternoon that reversed its updated order because it was recently added to the state's monitoring list, effectively shutting down all gyms by Wednesday, July 15.

Starting Monday, gyms and fitness centers that have been shuttered for months throughout Santa Clara County will finally be allowed to reopen. But they're going to have to follow some pretty stringent rules that go far beyond what the state requires.

County health officials released guidelines this week outlining how gyms and fitness facilities will be allowed to reopen starting Monday, July 13, marking the end of four months of mandatory closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. Patrons will be required to wear face coverings at all times -- even while exercising -- and gyms must cap the number of customers based on the square footage of the facility.

Perhaps the most onerous restriction is the blanket ban on any indoor cardio and aerobic exercises, including the use of treadmills, exercise bikes, elliptical machines and any activity that "induces heavy breathing and elevated heart rate." Indoor dancing and calisthenics are also prohibited, as are indoor and outdoor contact sports.

In drafting the rules, health officials say gyms and fitness centers are important to reopen, but also pose significant public health risks, with communal equipment and heavy respiration mostly taking place indoors, where the risk of transmission is higher.

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"Gyms and fitness facilities must take extra precautions to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission for clients and staff," according to the guidelines. "Gym and fitness activities are strongly urged to move activities and equipment outdoors wherever possible."

Other counties that were quicker to reopen gyms, including San Mateo County, have largely deferred to state guidelines for their own safety precautions. Those rules still require plenty of precautions, including frequent and thorough cleaning of locker rooms and showers and requiring staff or patrons to wipe down equipment and mats before and after each use, but are noticeably more lax.

In Santa Clara County, all locker rooms, showers, indoor pools, spas and saunas must remain closed.

YMCA fitness centers will be reopening later this month in a phased approach, with some branches opening on July 20, followed by another batch opening July 27. Joey Sanchez, the communications director for YMCA of Silicon Valley, said the nonprofit is taking the extra time to look through the county's requirements for a smooth opening.

"We're not planning to jump in as quickly as possible just because it's available," he said. "We're making sure that everything they are requiring is adhered to, that everything is properly sanitized and all our personnel are properly trained."

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Sanchez said the YMCA has an edge in the sense that it already has experience reopening gyms in San Mateo County earlier this month, albeit under a very different set of rules. He said the operations team was surprised to see Santa Clara County will be requiring face masks at all times, even when customers get to their station and begin working out.

The indoor prohibition on cardio workouts will also be tough to navigate, and may require them to push some of those activities outdoors, he said.

"The surprise for us was not being allowed to do indoor cardio. That's a huge thing for people coming to the Y obviously, and so we'll have to find different ways for people to work out."

Another sticking point is the cap on the number of people allowed inside at any given time, limited to one staff member per 250 square feet inside the facility and one customer for every 150 square feet. YMCA centers in Santa Clara County will likely have to use a reservation system to keep track of capacities, Sanchez said. Anyone interested to see when individual YMCA locations will open can check the nonprofit's [www.ymcasv.org/reopening-guide reopening webpage.

24 Hour Fitness, which operates more than a dozen gyms in Santa Clara County including two in Mountain View, is expected to reopen all of its local facilities right on July 13, with some big changes in mind. Open hours are being cut down, and gyms will have 30 minute closures during the day for club cleaning in between 60-minute workout sessions. Members are asked to make reservations one day in advance of showing up, and in other counties have been required to wear masks "unless extreme physical exertion or health restrictions" would prevent it.

In order to adhere to social distancing, the fitness center chain has decommissioned cardio and strength equipment previously packed tightly together to ensure proper spacing.

Planet Fitness, a national chain that operates three gyms in Santa Clara County, declined to give a start date for its reopening plans. Becky Zirlen, a spokeswoman for the club, said that safety is a top priority, and that the reopening date will be determined with that in mind.

"Now more than ever it's important to stay active, in order to stay healthy, and we look forward to safely and responsibly welcoming our members back," she said.

On top of social distancing and other health requirements, the chain will have to curtail its tradition of serving up pizza and bagels to its members, with county rules prohibiting indoor dining at fitness centers. Similar to restaurants, gyms can still serve up takeout meals or allow patrons to eat outside.

Gyms will be reopening as part of a larger update to the county's health restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus, which will also allow hair salons, nail salons and activities that can safely accommodate small gatherings. The order, announced on July 2, was briefly thrown in limbo over the Fourth of July weekend when state officials initially denied the county's plans. After a confusing back-and-forth, state officials finally gave Santa Clara County the go-ahead to proceed with its reopening plans on Monday.

The coronavirus and mandatory shutdown of fitness centers across the country has had a disastrous financial impact on gyms, which are among the last businesses that have been allowed to reopen. 24 Hour Fitness, based in San Ramon, announced last month that it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and will shutter 100 locations throughout the U.S., including 13 Bay Area locations spanning from Morgan Hill to Fairfield. The two gyms in Mountain View will remain open.

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Masked workouts and no indoor cardio: Gyms prepare to reopen under tight Santa Clara County rules

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Fri, Jul 10, 2020, 12:25 pm

UPDATE: On July 13, the day Santa Clara County allowed fitness centers to reopen, the county Public Health Department released a statement in the afternoon that reversed its updated order because it was recently added to the state's monitoring list, effectively shutting down all gyms by Wednesday, July 15.

Starting Monday, gyms and fitness centers that have been shuttered for months throughout Santa Clara County will finally be allowed to reopen. But they're going to have to follow some pretty stringent rules that go far beyond what the state requires.

County health officials released guidelines this week outlining how gyms and fitness facilities will be allowed to reopen starting Monday, July 13, marking the end of four months of mandatory closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. Patrons will be required to wear face coverings at all times -- even while exercising -- and gyms must cap the number of customers based on the square footage of the facility.

Perhaps the most onerous restriction is the blanket ban on any indoor cardio and aerobic exercises, including the use of treadmills, exercise bikes, elliptical machines and any activity that "induces heavy breathing and elevated heart rate." Indoor dancing and calisthenics are also prohibited, as are indoor and outdoor contact sports.

In drafting the rules, health officials say gyms and fitness centers are important to reopen, but also pose significant public health risks, with communal equipment and heavy respiration mostly taking place indoors, where the risk of transmission is higher.

"Gyms and fitness facilities must take extra precautions to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission for clients and staff," according to the guidelines. "Gym and fitness activities are strongly urged to move activities and equipment outdoors wherever possible."

Other counties that were quicker to reopen gyms, including San Mateo County, have largely deferred to state guidelines for their own safety precautions. Those rules still require plenty of precautions, including frequent and thorough cleaning of locker rooms and showers and requiring staff or patrons to wipe down equipment and mats before and after each use, but are noticeably more lax.

In Santa Clara County, all locker rooms, showers, indoor pools, spas and saunas must remain closed.

YMCA fitness centers will be reopening later this month in a phased approach, with some branches opening on July 20, followed by another batch opening July 27. Joey Sanchez, the communications director for YMCA of Silicon Valley, said the nonprofit is taking the extra time to look through the county's requirements for a smooth opening.

"We're not planning to jump in as quickly as possible just because it's available," he said. "We're making sure that everything they are requiring is adhered to, that everything is properly sanitized and all our personnel are properly trained."

Sanchez said the YMCA has an edge in the sense that it already has experience reopening gyms in San Mateo County earlier this month, albeit under a very different set of rules. He said the operations team was surprised to see Santa Clara County will be requiring face masks at all times, even when customers get to their station and begin working out.

The indoor prohibition on cardio workouts will also be tough to navigate, and may require them to push some of those activities outdoors, he said.

"The surprise for us was not being allowed to do indoor cardio. That's a huge thing for people coming to the Y obviously, and so we'll have to find different ways for people to work out."

Another sticking point is the cap on the number of people allowed inside at any given time, limited to one staff member per 250 square feet inside the facility and one customer for every 150 square feet. YMCA centers in Santa Clara County will likely have to use a reservation system to keep track of capacities, Sanchez said. Anyone interested to see when individual YMCA locations will open can check the nonprofit's [www.ymcasv.org/reopening-guide reopening webpage.

24 Hour Fitness, which operates more than a dozen gyms in Santa Clara County including two in Mountain View, is expected to reopen all of its local facilities right on July 13, with some big changes in mind. Open hours are being cut down, and gyms will have 30 minute closures during the day for club cleaning in between 60-minute workout sessions. Members are asked to make reservations one day in advance of showing up, and in other counties have been required to wear masks "unless extreme physical exertion or health restrictions" would prevent it.

In order to adhere to social distancing, the fitness center chain has decommissioned cardio and strength equipment previously packed tightly together to ensure proper spacing.

Planet Fitness, a national chain that operates three gyms in Santa Clara County, declined to give a start date for its reopening plans. Becky Zirlen, a spokeswoman for the club, said that safety is a top priority, and that the reopening date will be determined with that in mind.

"Now more than ever it's important to stay active, in order to stay healthy, and we look forward to safely and responsibly welcoming our members back," she said.

On top of social distancing and other health requirements, the chain will have to curtail its tradition of serving up pizza and bagels to its members, with county rules prohibiting indoor dining at fitness centers. Similar to restaurants, gyms can still serve up takeout meals or allow patrons to eat outside.

Gyms will be reopening as part of a larger update to the county's health restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus, which will also allow hair salons, nail salons and activities that can safely accommodate small gatherings. The order, announced on July 2, was briefly thrown in limbo over the Fourth of July weekend when state officials initially denied the county's plans. After a confusing back-and-forth, state officials finally gave Santa Clara County the go-ahead to proceed with its reopening plans on Monday.

The coronavirus and mandatory shutdown of fitness centers across the country has had a disastrous financial impact on gyms, which are among the last businesses that have been allowed to reopen. 24 Hour Fitness, based in San Ramon, announced last month that it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and will shutter 100 locations throughout the U.S., including 13 Bay Area locations spanning from Morgan Hill to Fairfield. The two gyms in Mountain View will remain open.

Comments

Christopher Chiang
North Bayshore
on Jul 10, 2020 at 2:12 pm
Christopher Chiang, North Bayshore
on Jul 10, 2020 at 2:12 pm
7 people like this

Every local decision like this puts us further way from reopening schools. We have 6 weeks to flatten the current spike to make reopening possible. In Melbourne Australia, similar pop size and COVID-19 spike to the Bay Area, they went back into 6-weeks of shelter-in-place this week. Deep respiratory indoor activity is not something our county should be doing in a spike. We can lament about federal policies, but local policies are determining our local future. It's also local policies that determine if the community takes masks seriously.


Richard
Waverly Park
on Jul 10, 2020 at 2:31 pm
Richard, Waverly Park
on Jul 10, 2020 at 2:31 pm
1 person likes this

As family members of the El Camino YMCA, we've continued to pay our monthly fees even while there has been no access to the facility. Our goal was to help the Y continue to do the good work they do for the community. Unfortunately if the Y is going to reopen but not offer the activities we pay for (treadmill, stationary bike, elliptical machine), we'll need to turn those dollars inward and purchase equipment for home. I hope the Y can figure out a way to provide access to aerobic equipment outdoors so we can continue to support them.


Pause
Cuernavaca
on Jul 10, 2020 at 2:33 pm
Pause, Cuernavaca
on Jul 10, 2020 at 2:33 pm
7 people like this

Agree with @Chiang

We should be hitting "pause" and understanding the surge...not further re-opening. With cases "latent" in the pipeline, the next 2-3 weeks is already predetermined to increase even more.

Please slow down, so that we can all enjoy more activities down the road...school, restaurants, etc...

Without healthy and confident citizens, the economy will not thrive.


Curious
Martens-Carmelita
on Jul 10, 2020 at 5:25 pm
Curious, Martens-Carmelita
on Jul 10, 2020 at 5:25 pm
Like this comment

Does anyone know where martial arts studios fall in the county's guidelines? Do they count as gyms?


SC Parent
Cuesta Park
on Jul 10, 2020 at 8:03 pm
SC Parent, Cuesta Park
on Jul 10, 2020 at 8:03 pm
Like this comment

On a positive note, think of the fitness/health benefits of this:
"On top of social distancing and other health requirements, [Planet Fitness] will have to curtail its tradition of serving up pizza and bagels to its members...."

But I am sad about the long term implications for the local YMCAs. I just need an elliptical, people! Roll it into the parking lot at 5am and I'll be there!


Gary
Sylvan Park
on Jul 10, 2020 at 9:59 pm
Gary, Sylvan Park
on Jul 10, 2020 at 9:59 pm
4 people like this

Exercise at home or outdoors. Most students will be symptomatic carriers. Before you celebrate that at least most children will live, look up lung damage in asymptomatic coronavirus victims.


BDBD
Cuesta Park
on Jul 11, 2020 at 12:04 pm
BDBD, Cuesta Park
on Jul 11, 2020 at 12:04 pm
3 people like this

If you're limiting the number of guests, a lot of parking will go unused. Thinking creatively, perhaps some gyms will be able to move some cardio machines outside to that area (hopefully build a sunshade). Outdoor dining and exercising may be the new normal for a while.


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