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Texas and Mississippi Lift Mask Mandates, Gyms Decide Path Forward

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On Tuesday, March 2, 2021, the governors of Texas and Mississippi announced they’d be lifting mask mandates and rolling back COVID-19 restrictions. 

Below are examples of what three gyms plan to do as a result. 

Avenu — Houston, Texas

Will they still require masks? Yes.

According to Brent Gallagher, the owner of Avenu in Houston, Texas, the facility will still require mask wearing for the time being, despite Tuesday’s announcement. 

“Where I gain comfort is knowing that the decisions we’ve made here at Avenu throughout this unique season have all been based on fulfilling our mission to make a healthy lifestyle sustainable, not what’s popular in the moment,” said Gallagher. “Everything we do at Avenu is filtered through a simple question:  ‘Will this make a healthy lifestyle sustainable?’”

Since reopening to in-person training on June 1, 2020, masks at Avenu have been required among staff and throughout a member’s entire workout. “We felt this would keep our community of clients, our team and their families healthy,” said Gallagher. “After 12,000-plus in-person workouts with masks on, we’ve had zero cases of COVID reported. As the mask mandate rolls back on Wednesday, March 10th, we will continue to require masks till the end of March. This will give us time to observe trends, hear from experts and formulate the healthiest steps forward.”

Although Gallagher acknowledges this may be a decision some won’t agree with, he believes it’s the right one.  

“I would imagine this may frustrate some,” said Gallagher. “It may cause some to leave. It may even cause bad press. But as I told my team this morning, leadership is about having the courage to take an unpopular stand. The beauty of our team here at Avenu is that you won’t be alone in that stand.”

Gold’s Gym El Paso, TX

Will they still require masks? No — but they will be encouraging their use on social media.

According to Anton Conlon, the CEO of Gold’s Gym El Paso, the news of masks no longer being required in the state of Texas came as a bit of a surprise. 

“We were the most strict gym operator in El Paso regarding the wearing of masks and protocols, for which we always had glowing reviews from COVID inspectors,” said Conlon. “We had some push back from members initially, but since then our members stuck to the rules.” 

As a result of Tuesday’s announcement, Conlon had a decision to make on mask policies moving forward.  

“After yesterday’s news we have decided we will allow members and staff to not wear masks at their discretion, but make it clear on social media and internally with signage that we ‘encourage’ members and staff to wear masks and practice social distancing when necessary,” said Conlon. “We will still have perspex screens at the front desk and upkeep our high standards on cleaning and disinfecting. Our facilities are renowned for cleanliness, even prior to COVID, so we feel confident.”

In addition, Conlon explained he and the senior management team will still wear masks, despite not being required to, to show support for members and staff who may feel intimidated or pressured into not wearing a mask. “This will be especially so when talking with members at the front desk,” he said.  

Conlon explained they spoke with the gym’s third-party staffing company in making its decision. “They said we can still enforce restrictions and the wearing of masks, but the sheer volume-driven nature of our business type means it would be tough to enforce or ask our staff to enforce during high-volume days or hours such as Mondays,” explained Conlon. “Other business models like low-volume coffee shops who still want to enforce restrictions would find it a lot easier to do so.”

The Houstonian Club — Houston, Texas

Will they still require masks? Yes. 

In a letter to its members, The Houstonian Club announced its decision to continue requiring masks as recommended by medical advice and safe practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Here is the letter its entirety: 

Dear Houstonian Club Members,

As you all know, Governor Greg Abbott announced earlier this week that effective March 10, he is lifting the statewide mask mandate and capacity limitations on businesses. However, the Governor also encouraged people to continue following medical advice and safe practices to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We can assure you that the safety of our Employees, Members and Guests is our highest priority. 

While we are hopeful for the future, we feel it is not yet time to loosen our safety protocols. Therefore, masks or face coverings will continue to be required for all Employees, Members and Guests when not eating or drinking. We will continue to seek guidance from our medical experts on a weekly basis while maintaining all of the health and safety initiatives we currently have in place.

The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa is currently installing Global Plasma Solutions (GPS). GPS along with our medical grade filtration system creates cleaner, purified air on our campus. GPS Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization produces both positive and negative ions just like the ions created in nature that seek out and attack pathogens, viruses, pollen and mold to deactivate and neutralize them as well as inhibiting them from growing or spreading. We are currently conducting an indoor air quality case study that will show the benefits of GPS Technology before and after installation of the equipment and we are one of the first clubs in the United States to have this advanced technology.

We thank you for supporting us and allowing us the opportunity to serve you.

The mask mandate will end in Texas on March 10th; Mississippi’s ended on March 3rd.

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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