Chicago gyms take steps to prevent coronavirus spread

The coronavirus can live from a couple of hours to several days on surfaces, depending on conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

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Fitness centers in Chicago are taking different approaches to the coronavirus outbreak.

Fitness centers in Chicago are taking different approaches to the coronavirus outbreak.

Ahlaam Delange/Sun-Times

Gym owner Annie Padrid is considering all safety options for her customers amid the growing number of coronavirus cases in Chicago.

Padrid, founder and owner of The Space in Hyde Park, is increasing sanitation stations and cleaning days at the gym although she is not worried about the effect COVID-19 could have on her customers.

The coronavirus can be deadly for “immune compromised” individuals, but her clients are “incredibly” healthy, she said.

The Space is one of the many gyms across Chicago that are cleaning more and asking customers to wipe down equipment to deal with the threat of the coronavirus. So far, seven cases have been confirmed in Illinois.

“I try to keep my hands away from my face while I am working out,” said Zach Aslan, a Northwestern University senior who uses Henry Crown Sports Pavilion. Equipment is shared, and not everyone wipes it down after using it, he said.

In the wake of the virus outbreak, exercise machines in the sports pavilion are cleaned every day, instead of every other day, said Amanda Caloras, a building supervisor. More hand sanitizer stations are now available, and members are encouraged to wash their hands.

The World Health Organization said studies suggest COVID-19 lives on surfaces for anywhere from a few hours to several days, depending on conditions.

Life Time fitness facilities are adding more hand sanitizing stations, according to a health club press release. Life Time encouraged gym-goers to use sanitizing wipes before and after using equipment, and asked members to stay away if they don’t feel well.

“We all have a responsibility to do our part to limit the spread of this virus and other illnesses, especially to those at a higher risk due to age, compromised immunity, or pre-existing conditions,” said Bahram Akradi, founder and CEO of Life Time.

The YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago has encouraged its staff to alert supervisors of their travel plans and those of close family members, as well. Staff may be required to stay home up to 12 days after arriving from a country with high COVID-19 cases, said Man-Yee Lee, Director of Communications for the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago.

They are currently not adding any new sanitation protocols.

Lee said the YMCA does not want to create “unnecessary” alarm and they meet every morning to assess the situation.

The organization also addressed anti-Chinese sentiments, since the first diagnosed cases of the virus were in China; business in Chicago’s Chinatown has suffered amid the outbreak.

Given that the YMCA’s 12,000 active members in Chicago come from a variety of backgrounds, she said, the organization doesn’t want its coronavirus response to add to any stigma.

“The virus is not distinguishable among race or ethnic identity,” Lee said.

Planet Fitness facilities have not added any new procedures, since staff already clean all equipment and gym area surfaces regularly, according to McCall Gosselin, Planet Fitness senior vice president of communications. Facilities also are cleaned overnight.

“People are pretty paranoid,” said Jake Friedman, a freshman at Marquette University. “An influx of people are using the sanitary wipes, and there is no coincidence — that is because of the virus.”

Friedman frequents Evanston Athletic Club and didn’t receive any updates from the gym about coronavirus precautions, he said. He is not worried about his personal safety because he is young and healthy.

“I think people are afraid because there is no vaccine,” he said. “In reality, the flu has killed a lot of people.”

As of Tuesday morning, there are over 100,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, including nearly 800 in the U.S. and at least 11 in Illinois.

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