Cleveland area gym owners say their facilities are exempt from mask mandates

Published: Jul. 10, 2020 at 8:30 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Add gyms, fitness and wellness center to the list of businesses seeking more clarification as to where they fall in either local or state mandates requiring face coverings.

With more counties entering into Level 3, as defined by Ohio’s Public Health Advisory System, more counties are facing orders to require masks.

But some business owners argue the order does not apply to their establishments.

“It’s relatively clear that here, in the county at least, that while working out, while exerting physical effort, masks are not required so we’re not enforcing that,” said Matt Motil, co-owner of Alpha Legends, which operates locations in Cleveland and Twinsburg.

He’s referring to state health department orders, which apply to counties that fall into that Level 3 category.

While facial coverings are required in both Cuyahoga and Summit Counties, where Alpha Legend operates, there are exemptions.

Among those listed in the order signed by Ohio Interim Director of Health Lance Himes, pertains to exercise.

“The individual is engaged in exercise in a gym or indoor facility so long as six or more feet of separation between individuals exists,” the order states.

Complicating matters is the fact that Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson has ordered the wearing of facial coverings within city limits.

The mandate has been widely criticized as vague and lacking clarity.

While the state mandates provide clear language regarding exemptions, Jackson’s order does not.

“Nobody has come by and said, ‘Hey, here are the guidelines,’ nobody said, ‘Hey you’re a business owner? Here’s the packet of information you need,’” Motil told 19 News.

Another Cleveland gym owner, who did not want to participate in the story, told 19 News he is not requiring customers to wear masks.

A common argument against masks while working out is discomfort caused by increased temperature, and difficulty breathing while exerting extra energy.

The national chains seem to be taking a different approach.

“We are following all local officials’ guidelines and will continue to do so in all of our locations,” a spokesperson for Planet Fitness told 19 News.

On the Cleveland pages of the Planet Fitness website, the company wrote, “To comply with State and local requirements, face coverings must be worn within the facility.”

While he believes his two facilities are indeed exempt from the mask requirement, Motil said Alpha Legends has guidelines for its customers.

“If you feel that you should be wearing a mask, then we encourage you to wear one,” he said.

In the meantime, he’s operating his business, awaiting more clarity from officials across the board.

“If you’re going to mandate something, then you should have a policy in place, you should have a clear guideline in place so people know, we should do this, we shouldn’t do this.”

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