Gyms will need to triple distance for exercising indoors

Governor Jay Inslee

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee released updated guidance Monday for gyms and fitness facilities that nearly triples the minimum distance required for patrons exercising indoors, except for those practicing certain team sports.

Starting Aug. 10, instead of the current requirement of six feet of distance between patrons, gyms and facilities in counties in Phase 2 and 3 of the state’s COVID-19 economic reopening plan will now be required to provide 300 square feet — about 17 feet — of distance. The number of people allowed in gyms, fitness facilities and fitness classes will be limited by the size of their space under this guidance, and occupancy in facilities and gyms that are larger than 12,000 square feet will be capped at 25 percent.

In addition, showers, hot tubs, saunas, and tanning beds will be closed, as will steam rooms, squash courts, and racquetball courts. And indoor team sport facilities will be limited for practice and limited competition with no spectators.

Last month, Inslee had initially called for counties in phase two, such as King County, to allow only five people, not including staff, for indoor fitness services at a time. Gyms in phase three counties initially were directed to reduce occupancy to 25% and limit group fitness classes to 10 participants. Those rules were set to take effect last Thursday, but Inslee delayed that implementation in order to work with the fitness industry for clearer guidelines based on the size of the facilities.

Basketball courts, volleyball courts, pickle ball, tennis courts, and other indoor sports facilities at multi-use fitness facilities will be limited to small groups of five, and a minimum of six feet of physical distance between individuals must be maintained at all times.

Patrons won’t have to wear facial coverings while engaged in strenuous exercise, though they must wear them immediately before and immediately after exercise and at all other times while inside fitness facilities. The guidance encourages outdoor locations for fitness training and team sports.

The updated guidance comes a week after Inslee announced the statewide pause for counties looking to advance from their current stage of COVID-19 economic reopening will continue indefinitely.

It’s the second time the pause has been extended since first implemented earlier this month. The extension comes days after Inslee tightened restrictions throughout the state for indoor activities in a further effort to stem a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Seventeen counties are in phase three of a four-part reopening process, 17 counties are currently in phase two and five counties are in a modified phase one of reopening.

As of Monday, there have been more than 58,000 confirmed cases since the pandemic began. Nearly 1,600 people in Washington have died of complications from COVID-19.

For most, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.