I don’t need to tell you all that these are unprecedented times. Many of us have been worrying about keeping ourselves and our loved ones healthy. Healthcare workers have been preoccupied with having adequate access to PPE. Millions have been filing for unemployment. And, apparently, rich people have been itching to get back to their luxury gyms, because Equinox announced over the weekend their plan to reopen facilities—excuse me, I mean clubs.
Equinox detailed the plan to reopen in an Instagram post, writing, “The past several weeks proved something we knew all along: Equinox is not just a place – it’s a mindset. It’s in our hearts. It’s in our homes. It’s who we are.” Maybe I’m just jealous because I can’t afford Equinox, and the human petri dish of a Planet Fitness to which I belong probably started coronavirus, but no, I’m pretty sure Equinox is just a place.
But, okay, the post broke down Equinox’s plan for reopening, which they called The Equinox Standard (or what Murray Hill bros will adopt as their new system for rating women’s appearances). The plan features a number of elements. First, members must complete a “self-health check” in the Equinox app before visiting. That description is vague, but thankfully, members won’t have to put blind trust in their fellow club members to stay home if they are feeling sick. “Body temperatures will be taken via touchless thermometers,” the Instagram post explains, and members must register under 100.4° to come in.
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We believe that our brand promise, It’s not fitness. It’s life., is more relevant today than ever. It represents what we stand for, how we engage with our members and teams, and the significant role we play in their lives – especially in these uncertain times. Over the years you have placed great trust in us, and we take that responsibility very seriously. The health and safety of our community is our number one priority. That is why we are introducing The Equinox Standard, our answer to the challenge of creating not only the safest environment for our community – but one where our community feels safe. Some of the measures below are temporary and others will be permanent. Our measures align with CDC and local guidelines and are informed by our medical and infectious disease experts. We are one community, one team, and one family—we are so grateful that you are a part of it. We’re in this together. Let’s keep on keeping each other strong and safe. Swipe through to see some of the measures we’re taking, and click the link in our bio for the full list. #ItsNotFitnessItsLife
But is that enough? Dr. Purvi Parikh, immunologist with Allergy & Asthma Network, told Betches that taking temperature “can help identify people who may not realize they are sick who have a high temperature,” but warned, “since fever is a symptom [of COVID-19] it doesn’t cover all asymptomatic carriers, as many will have a normal temperature.”
Dr. Melanie Graber, an internal medicine resident at the University of Connecticut, echoed, “Temperature screening is a good tool to catch people who are having a fever, but it isn’t necessarily effective at identifying people who are infected with coronavirus.” She also said, “Temperature checking would not screen out people who are infected but asymptomatic,” whom she said can be “highly infectious”. But, even though checking temperatures may not control for all potential infections, it probably beats the Florida method of “open and pray”.
Probably the biggest change is that gone are the days of just rolling up to the gym and lying down on the mats for two hours; now, members will be required to book a club visit in advance using the Equinox app. They can schedule three 90-minute “appointments” in any seven-day period (I too use the same terminology for my workouts as for my doctor’s visits), “with additional visits subject to club capacity.”
A source close to the company told Betches, “Members are not limited to visiting the club three times per week, rather they can have up to three appointments booked at one time,” adding, “members can book up to 7 days in advance or as soon as 15 minutes before visiting if space is available.” Same day drop-ins are also permitted, but subject to availability.
Some members worry that the new booking system, combined with modified club hours to make time for thorough cleaning and disinfecting, will not allow sufficient time to get all their workouts in. And with Equinox memberships starting at $185 per month in New York City, they don’t think they’ll get their money’s worth.
One member commented on Instagram, “Is this permanent? Will membership fees be reduced due to these restrictions?” Equinox replied on Instagram that, while the restrictions are temporary, “we are not amending membership dues at this time.” The source confirmed to Betches, “We are not reducing membership rates and are confident that members will be able to continue their normal routine and that many of our measures are temporary.”
Despite the company’s confidence that workouts will not be impacted, a few members are not so thrilled about taking a $200-ish gamble with the new system. Hunter Duplisse, an Equinox member in Vancouver, had a bone to pick in a post in Betches’ Diet Starts Tomorrow’ers Facebook group. While she acknowledged the necessity of booking workout spots in advance to maintain distancing, she said, “it’s really frustrating that we’re not receiving a reduction of fees considering our access to the gym is extremely limited.”
Another aspect of the new policies that drew confusion had to do with the PPE requirements for members, which allow room for ambiguities. The post states, “Members will be required to wear face coverings at all times in the club, except while vigorously training.” Why they’re making an exception for intense exercise is unclear, and Dr. Parikh told Betches, “I actually would recommend wearing masks or face covering at all times if possible,” not just when not-vigorously training, because “we know it reduces spread of droplets by 70 percent if all people are masked.
Further, you don’t know who has been in that area training or walking or running before you—we know the virus can stay in the air even for a few hours. If it is uncomfortable to exercise vigorously with a mask, it may be better to exercise in your home if possible.”
Also ambiguous is exactly constitutes “vigorous training” and who will make that call. Margaret Doherty, another member of the Diet Starts Tomorrow’ers Facebook group, asked, “How does one know what each person’s ‘vigorous training’ looks like?” Equinox’s source didn’t clarify, telling us, “We are continuing to define what constitutes vigorous training in coordination with our team of medical experts and will update our members prior to opening so they can make the decision that is best for them.”
On top of that, Equinox’s Instagram post stated, “It is recommended but not required that members wear gloves during their visit.” Considering Americans’ track record of abiding by gentle suggestions, I predict that we will see more gloves in an Alabama sex ed class than in any given Equinox club.
Still, if you’re looking for your fancy gym to protect you from coronavirus, you may want to look elsewhere. As Dr. Graber put it, “when people go to a public space, they assume the risk that someone else who is there may be infected and contagious.” Guess the founding fathers fought for your right to decide for yourself whether you want to risk catching coronavirus from the guy with a six pack running on the treadmill six feet away from you.
Some are praising the new measures, though. @swoleengineer commented, “This makes me so proud to be an Equinox member. I’ve been missing the gym, but more importantly very hesitant about showing up again if you guys reopen without any safety measures. All of this is more than good enough for me…” @scottfishman echoed, “You guys are AMAZING – great stuff providing so many awesome safety protocols!” And, despite her dissatisfaction with the membership costs not being adjusted, Duplisse admitted she’s not actually that concerned with sanitation, writing, “I do trust that they will be able to keep locations clean because I’ve always been incredibly impressed with the cleanliness of my club.”
The post did not specify when Equinox will be reopening, or which markets will see these new policies in effect first. Their rep explained, “We will evaluate each city’s situation in coordination with health officials and our team of medical and infectious disease experts to determine when it is best to reopen.”
Sorry, New York members, I have a feeling that means you’re just going to have to do at-home workouts for a little while longer—though your apartments probably have the space. And, the source assured us, not all of the measures are permanent. “This is a dynamic and fluid situation and we will continue to adapt and evaluate existing and new protocols with the safety of our teams and members in mind,” they said, echoing the one thing we all really can say with conviction: nobody is totally sure of anything right now, and we’re all just kind of making it up as we go.
Images: Sundry Photography / Shutterstock.com; Equinox / Instagram