Fitness execs hope Raleigh gym with coronavirus cluster doesn't lead to another industry shutdown

Posted December 3, 2020 8:14 p.m. EST
Updated December 4, 2020 10:52 a.m. EST

— Frustration is growing in the local fitness community over a large coronavirus cluster at a north Raleigh gym, with competitors saying the gym didn't do enough to protect its members.

At least 40 infections have been linked to Find a Way Fitness, at 3607 Falls River Ave.

Owners Kevin and Tasha Gidrey initially planned to close the gym from Nov. 21 through this Saturday, but they said Wednesday that the gym would remain closed through the end of the year.

The Gidreys, who are among those infected, said they don't know the source of the outbreak, but they said a gym member who got a positive result on a recent precautionary test alerted them to it.

Some Find a Way Fitness members said very few people wore masks while working out. Videos posted on social media show people running past each other in the gym without masks and less than 6 feet of separation.

"It was reckless, it was irresponsible, and it was something we are trying to avoid throughout the fitness industry," Doug Warf, president of O2 Fitness, said Thursday. “My advice would be to tighten up.”

“It’s very disappointing because we know how hard we’ve worked," agreed Johnny Groff, area director for Life Time Fitness.

Groff said the seven Life Time Fitness locations he manages in Raleigh and Charlotte, have had only 25 coronavirus cases among 468,000 check-ins since gyms were allowed to reopen in October.

Across 21 O2 Fitness locations, there have been seven infections out of more than 390,000 check-ins, Warf said.

“In the places that operate responsibly, there is no spread," he said.

Warf said he's worried that Find A Way Fitness is harming an industry fighting to stay open as coronavirus cases surge across North Carolina.

"I hate to say this because we don’t like to throw stones inside the fitness community, but you’re mad at the owners," he said. "At some point in time, it falls on the person who is running the location to enforce rules or to set rules.”

The Gidreys said they implemented extensive cleaning measures, and they plan to increase distancing and reduce class sizes further when they reopen in January.

“We would never do anything to harm them, harm our livelihood, harm the community in general. We hate this has happened," Tasha Gidrey said.

Warf and Groff both said their facilities already offer group fitness workouts with additional distancing and noted that equipment is disinfected both before and after workouts. They said they hope the safety measures will allow them to remain open through the winter.

“With everything we have in place, it is a safe environment," Groff said.

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