NC gym owners not hopeful of getting green light to reopen

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Gym owners are wondering what their next move is going to be when it comes to the Governor's assessment of Phase 2 next week.

Some smaller fitness centers have used a medical loophole to reopen but the majority of big chains have been closed since mid-March.

The president of O2 Fitness in Raleigh believes they'll be told they will be unable to open when there's another assessment of phase two next week.

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"We've inundated them with data, we've sent them everything we can about the safety of gyms and health clubs," said Doug Warf, president of O2, who said they have lost millions during the pandemic.

Warf manages 17 clubs in North Carolina-- 12 of them are in the Triangle.

The Department of Health and Human Services recently met with Warf and told him while his clubs are safe enough to open, they need numbers like COVID-19 hospitalizations across the state to stabilize.


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"We understand that there's an idea we have to level off numbers and some businesses might not be able to reopen during that but the fact that there's been no conversations about how to help those businesses mandated to be closed is surprising to us," said Warf, who added he hasn't heard from the Governor's office since May.

He and other major chains like Orange Theory, Crunch and Planet Fitness partnered recently to show a path forward.

"I always say hope is not a plan so we have a plan," said CJ Bouchard, president of Excel Fitness, which manages 26 Planet Fitness clubs across the North Carolina and 80 locations total in six different states. "Fitness itself is really combating the virus. I think that's the main thing people need to understand: fitness is here to be part of the solution."
State health officials Thursday reported an uptick in mental health crisis during the pandemic and suggested one of the ways to combat stress is through physical activity. Warf said it's easy to look at his five clubs in South Carolina as examples.


"We've had more than 55,000 individual check-ins in the time we've been open and there have been zero cases of COVID spread inside our clubs," said Warf.

He's adamant the state needs to figure out what to do with schools first before they can address gyms. O2 has pivoted many of its classes online--something that would've taken them two years to ramp up.

Once O2 does open up, you will be required to wear a mask the entire time you're working out.

Planet Fitness is mandating gym goers wear masks starting Saturday at all its clubs that are open across the country.
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