Airport Fitness in West Tisbury is allowing members who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to unmask inside the facility after showing their vaccine cards — unvaccinated members will still be required to wear one.
Connie McHugh, owner and director of the fitness center, said staff met after the May 29 mask guidance was issued by Gov. Charlie Baker, and sent out a survey to gym members gauging their comfort level with mask-wearing and vaccination.
“We are always surveying our membership in order to make the best decisions at each step of the process,” McHugh said. “I’ve got a really passionate team, and we are always following the guidance and looking to provide the best and safest experience for our members.”
Airport Fitness asked in the survey whether folks were ready to see mask requirements dropped at the club, if vaccinations play a part in being comfortable with dropping those requirements, and whether or not vaccines should be required for club use.
“After hearing back from members on the survey, we wrote a really clear and informed policy so that people could know what they could do, and what they still have to conform to that allows us to make the next move,” McHugh said. “A lot of people emailed back who were vaccinated and said that they would still wear a mask, even with the new policy change. Some people said they weren’t getting vaccinated, so they would have to wear a mask.”
All members — even seasonal ones who come only for a few months — were notified of the mask policy change prior to the decision being made official.
McHugh stressed that the policy change is right in line with the state and Centers for Disease Controls guidelines for mask-wearing, and fitness center staff constantly have their pulse on the feel of their membership.
Currently, Massachusetts has lifted the majority of face-covering restrictions in public spaces besides transportation and medical facilities. The CDC has also dropped the majority of its mask requirements.
McHugh said Airport Fitness has been working with the West Tisbury board of health to make sure the fitness center is complying with all health regulations. The showers at the gym are now open again, and staff are discussing the possibility of reopening the sauna and steam room sometime in early August.
Because Airport Fitness has nine training rooms with different equipment, McHugh said, people can feel more comfortable working out there without masks when fully vaccinated, as they often have their own room to exercise in. “We really spread out all the equipment, so that there’s something for everyone in every room. That way, people can basically just claim a room and stick to it,” McHugh said.
Although classes held out on the tennis courts have always been distanced and maskless during the pandemic, the classes in some of the exercise rooms were too small for people to socially distance. Now the fitness center has marked areas in each room where people who are fully vaccinated can stand without masks and still be safely distanced from the rest of the group.
For gyms, room occupancy guidelines may be one of the last restrictions to be fully lifted, but McHugh said that has never been a problem for Airport Fitness. “Frankly, we have never had an issue with room occupancy. Normally, we have one, maybe two people in a room, but everyone is really good at self-monitoring and making sure they are following the rules,” McHugh said.
Going into the summer, the gym staff are looking forward to welcoming new members, and “having a slamming summer return,” McHugh said.
“Obviously, we are going to continue to survey our members and hear their thoughts. Because it’s really all about them, and their safety and comfort,” she added.
As more folks come back to the gym, McHugh said, the staff will look at next steps, and plan for what’s ahead. “It’s an exciting time for us, but we certainly don’t want to relive this experience, so we are going to continue to follow all the guidance, and base our policy decisions on that,” McHugh said.