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'My gym is clean. It’s safer than Walmart’: Roanoke gym owner urges Gov. Northam to ease reopening restrictions

Petition with nearly 6,000 signatures outlines 7 steps gyms could take to reopen

ROANOKE, Va. – As some Virginia businesses settle into phase one of reopening, others remain at a standstill.

“It's really disappointing,” said Duane Ellis, who owns Elite Health & Fitness Center in Roanoke. “I’ve been open 13 years and this is the hardest thing we've ever had to go through.”

Gov. Ralph Northam is now allowing gyms to hold outdoor classes only, but some say that's not enough.

“You can get by but it's not the same quality of workouts that you can have in here,” Ellis said.

On rainy days like Tuesday, outside is not an option.

Ellis and many others are now urging the governor to reconsider how to reopen.

“My gym is clean. It's safer than Walmart,” Ellis said.

A petition with nearly 6,000 signatures outlines seven specific steps gyms could take to reopen, while keeping everyone safe:

  1. A check-in station with clear guidelines all members must agree to
  2. Health screenings
  3. Strict hand-washing policies
  4. Social distancing requirements
  5. Face masks in common areas
  6. Thoroughly wiping down equipment before and after use
  7. Classes spaced out to allow for more time to sanitize

“Oh gosh, they’re ready to workout again,” Ellis said.

Before Northam ordered gyms to close, Ellis set a 10-person capacity. He wants to get back to that and said he’ll take whatever steps necessary to make it happen.

“Another whole month going by, disappointing members, frustrating people, financially too it'd be really devastating,” Ellis said.

The community is also rallying around Ellis’ gym, starting a GoFundMe to help him get by during these trying times.

Northam has said phase one could last two to four weeks. It’s not yet clear what phase two will look like for businesses.


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