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Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Thursday said he would lift some COVID-19 restrictions on gyms, fitness centers and indoor athletic facilities on Monday.
Pools, spas, showers and saunas will remain closed. Team activities, including sports, will not resume at this time, the governor said.
He said the state is telling these businesses to:
- Screen employees and patrons
- Not admit those who recently traveled to New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Orleans or overseas
- Not admit people who have had recent contact with a coronavirus patient, have symptoms, have compromised immune systems or have chronic diseases
- Check their employees’ temperatures
- Have staff and patrons wear face coverings except when actively exercising
- Make sanitizer available
- Sanitize equipment after each use
- Maintain 12-foot distancing between individuals
- Not allow personal contact
“We still want to maintain our downward curve. We want to be able to reduce the spread in Arkansas. And, to do that, we have to have everyone appropriately socially distant,” Hutchinson said. “We need everybody to still take this very seriously and not think, well, they’re opening something up so everything is back to normal.”
He cautioned that whether the state continues toward allowing businesses to resume pre-pandemic operations or return to strict rules depends on how the first phase of a three-phase plan goes.
Kelly Eichler, an owner of the Little Rock Athletic Club and a member of the Governor’s Economic Recovery Task Force, also spoke at Thursday’s daily news conference.
The Little Rock Athletic Club has compiled a “Recovery Readiness and Member Experience Guideline” for each of its four facilities, and is willing to share that with other similar businesses, she said.
“The three main parts of the plan are to provide a touchless experience, as much as possible, to maintain social distancing … an area of about 150 feet is probably, for one person, is probably the best area for a class size, for a class member to participate in aerobics or whatever classes they may be taking,” Eichler said. “Of course, the main part is sanitization, and we will keep our facilities as clean as possible.”
The club will post employees throughout their gyms to remind members to maintain social distancing and make sure they have what they need to sanitize equipment after use, she said. The club is removing about half of its equipment as well, to ensure there is enough room between members using equipment.
In addition, the governor and Eichler acknowledged that smaller exercise facilities may not be able to comply with the 12-foot or other rules. Eichler said, “The health and safety of clients is way far above the interests of the business.”
Hutchinson said the state’s rules for these businesses would be relaxed at a later date if coronavirus cases remain under the expected trend.
Arkansas has recorded a total of 3,255 COVID-19 cases and 95 patients are hospitalized. Sixty-one Arkansans have died from the virus; 1,305 have recovered from it.