As of late afternoon Friday, O2 Fitness officials were still uncertain whether they would proceed with plans to reopen their facilities in North Carolina on Saturday. Those plans faced headwinds from the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services that blew in earlier Friday.
The gym chain, which has four locations in Wilmington in addition to others in the Triangle and the Triad, closed all its facilities in March. Early Friday, it announced that its North Carolina gym clubs would reopen Saturday; after hearing from NCDHHS later in the day, officials were unsure whether to proceed on that path. But its Facebook posts still reflected plans to make its indoor facilities available to members.
Fitness facilities may offer outdoor classes and outdoor exercise equipment during Phase 2 restrictions as long as they comply with the outdoor mass gathering limit of 25 people, said NCDHHS spokeswoman Catie Armstrong in an email Friday afternoon. O2 Fitness has been conducting outdoor and live-streamed activities.
Indoor activity, however, is a different story, Armstrong said.
"Fitness facilities, gyms and exercise facilities in North Carolina are permitted to operate indoors for those who have a prescription from a medical professional or health care provider," she wrote. "To the extent that indoor or outdoor areas in gyms, exercise facilities, or fitness facilities are utilized for the limited purpose of serving those with a medical condition, they must follow the NCDHHS Interim Guidance for Fitness Center and Gym Settings."
So, despite the measures for mask-wearing, sanitizing and maintaining physical and social distancing the fitness chain stated it was taking
to protect members and staff, those measures apparently did not satisfy the state agency, since O2 Fitness did not indicate it was limiting its clientele to those members with medical conditions requiring exercise.
O2 Fitness officials noted that some other gyms in the area reopened earlier
this summer through the technicality mentioned by Armstrong. That exception -- serving members with a medical condition for which exercise is prescribed -- was outlined in a June 5 letter from N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein. Information on the state's easing of various Phase 2 restrictions, including those for gyms, can be found here
Although the letter said that individuals exercising because of medical directives must provide documentation from a medical professional, gym owners are citing the Americans with Disabilities Act and other privacy legislation as reasons that individuals need not provide such documentation.
O2 Fitness facilities are located in Hanover Center, Mayfaire, on Racine Drive and in the Porters Neck area.