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In early March, Texas Governor Greg Abbott lifted the state’s mandatory mask requirement and simultaneously announced that businesses in Texas would be allowed to open to 100% capacity beginning March 10. The announcement raised questions for private businesses regarding whether they would require the use of face coverings inside their buildings and, if so, how they would enforce this requirement.

Fitness gyms face a unique set of challenges regarding the use of masks and face coverings. COVID-19 is spread through large respiratory droplets as well as tiny airborne particles emitted when an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks or breathes heavily. In gyms, patrons are often exerting heavily, which increases the volume and speed at which they are exhaling air. This air can linger in a space for hours, even after the infected person has left the building, which increases COVID-19 risk to everyone sharing the space. In October 2020, the CDC officially acknowledged the possibility of airborne COVID-19 spread at distances greater than six feet. In addition to airborne risks, gym patrons share equipment and touch common surfaces that may carry the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19. These surfaces may not be sanitized before every usage.

Despite these risks, some fitness facilities worry that requiring masks could deter gym use and new membership, and some have decided to make mask usage optional or to only require face coverings in certain areas or for certain activities.

According to Austin NBC News Station KXAN, the following is a list of gyms that are not enforcing the use of masks or face coverings throughout their entire facilities.

  1. Gold’s Gym
  2. La Fitness
  3. Life Time
  4. 24 Hour Fitness

KXAN has reported that Planet Fitness, Orangetheory Fitness and the YMCA will continue requiring mask usage.

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