Many gyms in Provo have remained open despite Provo’s status changing from low risk to moderate risk for COVID-19.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert moved Provo and Orem to the orange (moderate risk) phase from the yellow (low risk) phase during a press conference on Sept. 22. Utah Department of Health Executive Director Richard G. Saunders said sporting events and school extracurricular activities would remain in the yellow phase, but spectators would not be allowed to attend. Fitness centers and gyms, however, were not exempted and moved to the orange phase like everything else in Orem and Provo.
According to Utah’s phased guidelines for COVID-19, in the orange phase gyms are encouraged to stay closed but aren’t required to. If they are open, people have to keep 10 feet between themselves and others they don’t live with. Gyms are also directed to limit the number of people and clean more often; however, the guidelines do not offer specifics.
Tyler Plewe, director of the Utah County Health Department’s environmental health program, said since people aren’t required to wear masks while they are working out, the key will be limiting the number of people in gyms and social distancing.
The Provo Recreation Center is one of the gyms in Provo that has remained open. The center has posted a full list of guidelines it has implemented with the change to orange.
Provo Recreation Center Operations Coordinator Mariah Shirley said additional staff has been scheduled throughout the day. She said while they are asking members to wipe down each piece of equipment they touch, the additional staff is there to make sure that actually happens. The extra custodians scheduled are focused on disinfecting areas that members might be touching a lot, like door handles or handrails.
“We know the restriction modifications are a little bit frustrating for some people,” Shirley said. “But we’ve seen a pretty good community effort to make sure that things are going well, so we’re not super concerned.”
Shirley said the Rec Center is not currently limiting the number of people that come in each day, but that staff members are monitoring those numbers. She said they have a number in mind that if they reach, they’ll start restricting people. But currently, she said, they aren’t reaching that capacity.
Shirley said they have decided to keep the center open because “it is not just a gym facility that we have here. There are a lot of amenities here that end up being considered essential to families around the area.” Some of those amenities include showers and locker rooms, a meal program for seniors and a child watch program.
VASA Fitness sent an email to its members in Utah County on Sept. 23 in response to Utah County’s mask mandate. The email said that starting Sept. 24, “members who are not actively engaged in strenuous cardiovascular exercise must wear a mask at all times in the club” and that the basketball and racquetball courts would close until further notice.
BYU Student Wellness announced that with Provo’s move to the orange phase, BYU’s fitness center and gyms would close until further notice. Director of Student Wellness and Facilities Nathan Ormsby said they didn’t have the resources and weren’t prepared to properly follow all of the guidelines required by the state.
“We wanted to show the students and communicate to them that this is a critical time to see a behavior change and that if we keep doing the same things, the numbers could continue to increase,” Ormsby said.
Ormsby said they don’t have a specific case threshold for when the facilities will reopen, but they will follow guidance from the department of health and BYU.