PROVIDENCE - Like other places opening their doors again as the state begins to slowly and cautiously crawl out from under the COVID-19 boulder, gyms and fitness centers will need to follow a set of rules and regulations upon coming back online in Phase 2 of reopening Rhode Island. The second phase is expected to begin Monday.
"Many people ask me if I think it's safe [to reopen], or if I would go out to eat or go to the gym," said Governor Gina Raimondo. "I believe it is safe for you to do this. Like everything else in our lives, it's going to be different. I trust you to do the right thing and follow the rules."
If Phase 2 begins June 1 as expected and gyms were to reopen, all existing rules and regulations around social distancing and health, such as maintaining six feet of distance with other people and wearing a face mask, would apply in gyms and other places of fitness. Under these rules, close contact exercises or sports, such as boxing and wrestling, would be prohibited in Phase 2.
"Some of you may be saying it’s not possible to run on a treadmill with a face cloth covering,” said Raimondo. “There are a number of face cloth coverings out there specifically designed to use while you exercise.”
If not wearing a face mask while "exercising aggressively," said Raimondo, referring to high-energy activities such as running, one must maintain at least 14 feet of distance with other people.
Additionally, the state government is strongly encouraging gyms to adopt reservation systems for customers, much like how restaurants have done with outdoor dining. Gyms are also required to screen customers for symptoms before allowing entry, though the inspection can be performed verbally. Locker rooms will be closed, gyms will need to do more cleaning and sanitation and common equipment must be wiped down and sanitized after each individual use. Finally, customers will be asked to leave their name and phone number if they frequent the gym.
“We want to make sure there are not crowds,” said Raimondo while encouraging gyms to incorporate a reservation system for clients. “We want to make sure people come in a consistent fashion. Certainly if there are any classes being offered, they have to be scheduled.”
Raimondo also reported 143 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state's total number of cases to 14,353. There were an additional 21 deaths from the novel coronavirus, making for a total of 655 fatalities in Rhode Island. 2,497 people were tested in the prior day to obtain the above data. 218 people are currently hospitalized, with 49 of those patients in the intensive care unit and 35 on ventilators. To date, there have been 1,175 discharges from the hospital.
Raimondo told the public that following the rules was more important than ever as the state begins to enter Phase 2 to prevent outbreaks and an increase in hospitalizations, which have declined by about 40 percent since the beginning of May and Rhode Island flattened the curve of the virus' spread.
“I’m worried that people think, ‘oh, we’re going to be able to go get our haircut, we’re going to be able to go out to eat, we can relax,’ it’s actually the opposite,” said Raimondo. “We are going to be able to do that, go shopping again, start to go back to work, get our haircut, go out dinner, therefore, it is more important than ever that you follow the rules around mask wearing, social distancing, handwashing, calling the doctor if you’re sick and staying home if you’re sick.”
“We started Phase 1 more than two weeks ago,” Raimondo continued, noting Rhode Island was ahead of its neighbor states in containing the virus. “If we were going to be seeing problems because of our reopening of Phase 1, we’d be seeing them now. We’d be seeing hospitalizations going up now, we’d be seeing new cases going up now. The fact that we’re not seeing that is great and should give you confidence that we are ready to continue and move on to Phase 2.”
Pending no large-scale outbreaks or surge in hospitalizations, Phase 2 is expected to last for about a month before the state enters Phase 3.