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See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

Dozens Of Gyms Reopen Ahead Of Governor's Expected Announcement About Next Phase

The Planet Fitness chain is reopening dozens of North Carolina gyms on Tuesday.
Claire Donnelly
The Planet Fitness chain is reopening dozens of North Carolina gyms on Tuesday.


Gov. Roy Cooper is expected to share information on Tuesday about the next phase of reopening in North Carolina. Phase 2 is set to expire on Sept. 11, but any changes announced would take effect “later this week,” a spokeswoman for the governor, Dory MacMillan, said in an email.

Many gyms have already reopened, despite being required to stay closed in Phase 2, and several dozen more plan to reopen on Tuesday.

“All of our equipment has been spaced out a minimum of six feet apart,” said Stephen Kindler Jr., the head of National Fitness Partners, which runs 52 Planet Fitness gyms in the Charlotte area and the Triangle. 

Kindler said his gyms have shorter hours, are operating at 30% capacity and are requiring everyone inside the gym to wear a mask unless they’re “actively exercising.” He said people will also have to take a symptom questionnaire before walking in the door. Kindler called the new procedures “social fitnessing,” a play on “social distancing.”

Other gyms, such as some franchises of Crunch Fitness and Anytime Fitness, have also reportedly reopened ahead of the next phase. Planet Fitness gyms inside Charlotte’s city limits are run by a different group that has not rescheduled a reopening, though Kindler said he expects they will follow suit. 

State Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said at a press conference last week that gyms are “high risk” places where the coronavirus could spread more easily. 

“When you are exercising, you are breathing heavier, and when you breathe heavier, more viral respiratory droplets have the opportunity to leave your body and go to others,” Cohen said.

Kindler and other gym owners cited a letter Attorney General Josh Stein wrote in June to justify reopening. Stein, in a letter to an attorney representing gyms, said the governor’s order allows for a medical exception, meaning that gyms could open for people who have a prescription or direction from a doctor or health care professional. 

North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services clarified the letter and issued guidelines saying that people have to show a doctor’s note. But Kindler said none of his franchises are going to ask for a note. He said the company wants to respect patient privacy.

“We will not be holding a medical note on file for them. We firmly believe that’s something that should be really only saved for doctors and physicians' offices, which, obviously, we’re not,” Kindler said. 

“I personally have not had any patients ask for a doctor’s note or some sort of prescription or clearance to go to the gym,” said Ryan Shelton, a physician at Tryon Medical Partners. 

Shelton said if gyms can reopen with safety measures then the benefits of exercise could outweigh the risks of contracting the virus.

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