Texas gym splits, offering zone with masks, another without


AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) — Wearing a mask in Texas gyms is now optional since governor Greg Abbott lifted the statewide mask mandate. But many Texans are still choosing to mask up.

The majority of gymgoers wore their masks this week at a 24 Hour Fitness gym in Austin, even though it wasn’t required.

General Manager OJ Stevenson said he wasn’t surprised.

“Everybody here, even before today, was pretty cooperative when it comes to masks,” he said

Club member Carson Meinholz, who chose not to wear a mask, wasn’t shocked either.

Meinholz gets a run in along a mirror inside the gym (KXAN Photo/Tom Miller)

“This is Austin, Texas. I’m not surprised whatsoever. I’m just very happy that they’re giving it up to the individual a little bit more now because, again, that’s what it comes down to,” Meinholz said. “I believe in the good of the people, people can do what’s right. They can take care of themselves without the government forcing us to cover up our face.”

Many gyms around the area are offering different options when it comes to what they’re allowing and what safety precautions they’re taking.

“We decided to develop what we call a ‘club [within] club’ experience, so one part of the club is where masks are not required, but encouraged, and then we have another part of the club where masks are required,” Stevenson said of this 24 Hour Fitness gym. “The idea is just to make sure that we accommodate as many people as possible no matter their comfort level.”

The “club within club” zone is equipped with cardio and strength equipment but has restrictions along with mask requirements. The area is maintained at 10 percent capacity with limited equipment, Stevenson said. However, it offers gymgoers who want to wear a mask some peace of mind while working out.

Gymgoer Terri Lee, who wore a mask, utilized the zone in what used to be the gym’s basketball court. She believes the gym made an important decision.

Lee lifts weight inside “club in club” (KXAN Photo/Tom Miller)

“Not everyone will feel comfortable working out in an indoor, enclosed space with other people that aren’t wearing masks,” she said.

Lee noticed those who chose not to wear a mask and said she doesn’t think its responsible.

“Not great, I don’t really think it’s very responsible,” said Lee. “It’s a little bit disappointing to have the governor make that announcement, and also for 24 to change the rules, but I guess we’re already making calculated risks, so we’re just doing what we can to keep ourselves safe.”

Meinholz isn’t opposed to the “club in club” zone. He thinks it’s a “great” option for those who want to wear a mask.

“If you need an extra accommodation, it’s gonna be there for you, but leaving it up to the people I think is the biggest thing, my biggest takeaway here,” he said.

He doesn’t have safety concerns.

“If you have risks in which you need to be concerned, go ahead and stay home, but otherwise we all gotta keep moving. We can’t be stagnant for too long.”

24 Hour Fitness said it is still promoting social distancing throughout its clubs along with safety protocol signage. The staff has cleaning procedures, along with cleaning supplies for its club members. You can learn more about the gym and stay up-to-date with changes on their website.

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