Anchorage gyms worry about COVID-19 cases but are not closing

Channel 2 Morning Edition (6 a.m.)
Updated: Aug. 23, 2021 at 7:00 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - With the end of summer drawing closer, Anchorage gyms are preparing for the people packing up their tents and hiking boots and taking out their gym clothes for the busier winter season. At the same time, the pandemic that drastically affected their businesses last year is getting worse again.

At Alaska Fitness, owner Jennifer Novak remembered the times of closures and mandated masks at the gym, and how many members didn’t like having to wear them while working out.

“In the gym, I just followed what the mayor asked us to do,” Novak said. “And it wasn’t fun for people to work out with a mask on and it was very hard to run a business that way.”

Right now, she said she’s watching the case counts rising and worrying about her members’ health. Although she’s not requiring masks or any kind of proof that unmasked members are vaccinated.

“I can’t be asking people to do that if I want to stay open,” she said.

Novak said she and what employees she’s able to keep are still constantly cleaning the place, although that’s gotten harder with staffing shortages.

Likewise at Anytime Fitness, Operations Manager Frederick Williams said they are trying to keep the gym clean and safe for the members. He said they’ve implemented some new technology to keep track of all the cleaning to make sure nothing is missed. There too, everyone is cleaning all the time — even he and the sales department chip in on that front.

“As long as we maintain those systems, I feel we will be good and beneficial and still keep people safe,” Williams said.

Much of the guidance from the CDC on how gyms can be safe with the pandemic moving forward isn’t very new — mainly it calls for gyms and fitness centers to do regular cleaning, for people inside to maintain social distancing as much as possible, and sick employees and members to stay home.

The latest update for CDC guidance in this category of business is from June.

While COVID-19 is rearing its head again, however, Novak and Williams don’t have much fear of closures in Anchorage because of the positions of Mayor Dave Bronson being very different from that of his predecessors.

“Definitely two very different mayors, and that’s why I’m urging people to wear a mask if they’re worried or they’re not vaccinated,” Novak said.

“As of right now, I do not see indication at least from our current administration that they are looking to shut down. But if they do we will act accordingly to what the policies are,” Williams said.

At the same time, state healthcare leaders are calling on people to take care of themselves in order to protect themselves from severe COVID-19 symptoms if caught.

Novak and Williams said gyms staying open is a cornerstone of people accomplishing those goals, while also taking proper vitamins and eating healthy.

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