Gym Owners Fear Mask Mandate May Decrease Business; One Says He Will Let Clients Choose – CBS Chicago

Gym Owners Fear Mask Mandate May Decrease Business; One Says He Will Let Clients Choose – CBS Chicago


CHICAGO (CBS) — Despite a resurgence of COVID-19 cases and a mask mandate, some people are planning to ignore it.

In the eyes of gym owner and trainer Sean Hastings, fitness is a fighter of COVID-19 as well.

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“Thursday, to me, was taking a step in the wrong direction,” he said.

That is when Gov. JB Pritzker mandated masks for public indoor spaces around the state — including gyms. But come next week at Revolution Fitness in Naperville, it is a choice.

“I’m going to leave it up to my members,” Hastings said.

He worries a mask or vaccine mandate could deter people from workout out, and his class sizes are small, per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

“When we send the message that you should get vaccinated, you should mask up, you should distance, without following that or preceeding that with, ‘You need to eat better, you need to exercise,’ I think we’re sending the wrong message,” he said.

But gyms have been a focal point of national studies. One from the CDC cited high intensity workouts at a Chicago gym a source of spread. Most people didn’t wear masks. That was before the Delta variant and a vaccine.

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“I’m in support of keeping people safe. That doesn’t mean I necessarily like it,” said Larry Howard, a personal trainer with LH Fitness Solutions in Chicago, where a mandate is already in place.

He and his clients are wearing masks, but he has seen some gyms lose members.

“You’re noticing in New York, some gyms are requiring you to have proof of vaccination. I can see that being an option, too,” he said.

The goal is to make sure gyms are seen as essential as some close and struggle since the start of the pandemic.

It is a fight some lawmakers feel is important to get in on. Some at the federal level are drumming up financial support for these gyms — $30 billion worth in the GYMS Act. The bill, which is currently in committee, is sponsored by Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Rep. Mike Quigley. They see keeping gyms afloat equally as important as restaurants, an industry that has already gotten a financial boost.

Hastings supports that as he does worry his defiance on the masks could get pushback.

“Yes, I absolutley am,” he said.

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But he hopes his stance creates what he sees as a healthier mindset and said his gym has not lost members. But fearing another gym shutdown, he has spent less money on advertising and buying equipment.

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