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As gyms gear up to reopen, specific guidelines still uncertain

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BATON ROUGE - Gyms around the state are gearing up to reopen their doors for the first time in two months under 'Phase One' of Louisiana's plan to reopen the economy.

Gov. John Bel Edwards announced on Monday that fitness centers could open on Friday with restrictions on capacity and other requirements to keep COVID-19 social distancing measures in place.

But gym owners like Joshua Roberts are still waiting for more specific guidelines from the state as they try to formulate a plan to keep their staff and gym members safe while working out in their facilities.

On Tuesday, new workout equipment was hauled in and unpacked at one gym off Airline Highway. The building had housed Foxy's Fitness Center for more than half a century.

“It was a staple for the community,” Roberts said.

The fitness center is now called 'Gym Fit.' Roberts bought the building in September, weeks before anyone had been diagnosed with COVID-19.

“We’ve put about $1 million into renovations. We’ve got a whole brand new roof, all sorts of cosmetic renovations. We’ve also probably put in about $150,000 to $200,000 in equipment,” Roberts said.

Staff members have been doing some heavy lifting for the past two weeks to ready their space. Roberts says he's looking forward to the gym's completely fresh start. 

“We’ve already started to separate the cardio equipment to be six feet apart. We’re starting to spread out a lot of our machines and little things like that,” Roberts said.

About 125 members will be able to work out at the same time while following the state's order limiting buildings to 25 percent occupancy inside, Roberts says. With more than 20 rooms of workout equipment, he says spreading people out shouldn’t be a problem.

“As you walk in we’re encouraging members to wear masks. We’re not making it something that they have to do but if the government requires us then obviously we will. We’ll have at least three to five staff members constantly just wiping around cleaning equipment,” Roberts said.

Employees who interact with the public will be required to wear a face mask at all times under 'Phase One.'

The gym will also be trying out additional measures to keep people safe and socially distanced. Members will only be allowed one hour to work out at first and sign-up sheets may be needed to use certain machines and equipment.

“We possibly might be checking people for fevers with the temperature gun. We’ll also have all sorts of sanitation stations,” Roberts said.

The governor’s office has yet to release more specific reopening guidelines for places like gyms with only two days until 'Phase One' starts.

“There’s definitely a few uncertainties kind of going on. Our main thing is we just want to make sure that we’re responsible. We’ve closed areas like the steam room, the saunas, the hot tubs, really confined areas,” Roberts said.

Between now until Friday, it’s a race against the clock for gyms to clean, paint, move equipment, and finalize their game plans.

“I think people should feel safe when they’re coming in here knowing that we will be constantly cleaning the equipment. We’re making all these restrictions that some people might not be happy about, but it is in order for us to keep this from spreading,” Roberts said.

Sources say the governor’s office will release more specific guidelines for businesses by Wednesday.


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