Eugene gym aims for 'close to business as usual' amid extreme risk

“I think it’s best for everyone that we try to stay open,” the general manager said.

Posted: May 3, 2021 2:02 PM
Updated: May 3, 2021 6:26 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- After Lane County moved to extreme risk Friday, local businesses have been put in yet under pinch.

Under extreme risk rules, facilities that are larger than 500 square feet can have a maximum of six people inside. Businesses smaller than 500 square feet will only be allowed to have one employee and one customer.

Elements Health Club on Oakway told KEZI they will remain open, saying they’ll be following the rules “as closely as possible.”

“We’re going to try to do our best to keep it as close to business as usual as we can,” said Dede Dorsey, the general manager. “With the regulations, it’s not going to be that but we want to keep that mentality.”

Dorsey said they’ll be sticking to 25 percent capacity.

Some feel the gym is sending mixed messages, after an email was sent out to instructors by a coordinator.

A viewer shared the email with KEZI. Part of the email reads: “Most of our classes are small enough that a few extra bodies will not be obvious. For those of you that have classes that get over 10 participants, I would hold class as usual.”

Another email was sent the next day: “You may see signs up about people being required to sign up for classes and that spaces are limited. These are just up so that we check a box if anyone asks. We're not really doing this.”

Dorsey said that his gym community appreciates their decision.

"Members are expressing their frustration on having to go up the threat level but in the same breath of gratitude that we're not closing the doors," Dorsey said.

When asked about concerns related to not sticking to the six-person limit, here’s what he shared: “The concern for us isn't necessarily high because we do what we need to do to make sure we're allowed to operate the way we can. Everything is cleaned and sanitized before and after use. I have multiple janitors on staff that are here all day that run around and clean everything.”

Gym member Larry Gienger shared his thoughts.

“Everybody’s safe here,” Gienger said. “They wear face masks. They obey everything. I feel comfortable here.”

KEZI spoke to other gym owners in the area.

Rob Bennett is the owner of Downtown Athletic Club in Eugene. He joined the Oregon Health and Fitness Alliance to represent the fitness industry in Oregon. He said they’ve been advocating since day one.

“Looking at the data, it’s clear that our facilities are safe and they are not the cause of the spread, particularly when people are wearing masks,” Bennett said. "To go back and forth is really challenging as an operational perspective. It’s challenging on our employees. It’s challenging on our members. It’s challenging on the mental, physical, emotional well-being of our clientele."

He said the gym is doing their best to educate their members and honor the six client per area rule.

"We really try to have respect for the governor and her office even though we disagree with what she's saying," Bennett said. "Part of our agreement for being with the Health and Fitness Alliance is to abide by the rules."

According to Lane County Public Health data, 73 percent of outbreaks are associated with university college residence halls.

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