Gyms statewide, in Southwest Minneapolis ordered to close amid coronavirus outbreak

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Update, March 16, 5 p.m.: This story has been updated to reflect an order from Gov. Tim Walz that all fitness centers in the state close amid the coronavirus outbreak and new recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Health.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has ordered all fitness centers to close to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak beginning at 5 p.m. March 17, shuttering many Southwest Minneapolis gyms and studios until at least March 27.

The Minnesota Department of Health is now discouraging gatherings of more than 50 people and encouraging social distancing as cases of coronavirus continue to rise across the state.

The YMCA at 33rd & Blaisdell closed as part of a statewide shutdown of the organization during the outbreak. The YMCA announced March 15 it was closing all fitness centers, pools, camps in Minnesota. Child care centers operated by the YMCA will remain open. Right now, the plan is to reopen the centers on March 30, YMCA of the greater Twin Cities Glen Gunderson wrote in a letter to members. The Y is offering digital fitness classes and workout routines via its Y360 YouTube channel. 

The YWCA Minneapolis, which has a large gym at 28th & Hennepin in Uptown, sent out a message to members Monday that the gym will close on Tuesday,  March 17 and that all events for March are canceled or postponed. 

A few days before, the gym, like others, was encouraging members to not come if feeling unwell and to be extra vigilant in cleaning off equipment before and after use. 

Heather Hannig, vice president of health and wellness for YWCA Minneapolis, said the organization is focusing on cleaning and communicating more with their members during the outbreak, but they also wanted to remain open to provide a sense of normalcy and a place for people to get much needed exercise.

On March 16, the organization decided the best step was to close for now. The YWCA’s early childhood centers in Minneapolis remain open.

“We need everyone’s help to navigate this correctly,” Hannig said.

For many community gyms, the virus brings not only health concerns, but worries about the viability of their business should people need to stay home.

At 44th & Drew , AQ Fit Lab and its neighbor/sister gym Linden Hills CrossFit will be closed starting March 17, according to Anne Mezzenga, a partial owner of both operations.

“We just feel like it’s better to be safe in this situation than sorry,” Mezzenga said.

Mezzenga and her business partners will be evaluating the situation daily to determine when they can safely reopen the gyms. For now, they are planning to provide daily workouts to their members online and are trying to be as creative as possible to work around equipment barriers.

“For us and a lot of our fellow small businesses, it’s going to be tough,” she said.

The neighboring ThirdHaus co-working space and content studio, of which Mezzenga is also a co-founder, has also decided to close amidst the outbreak.

Lucia Yess, owner of Yess Yoga in Whittier, said she and her staff have ramped up cleaning efforts in the studios, particularly of prop items like blankets and blocks. She’s been sending reminders to teachers and students to come in with washed hands. So far class sizes have been relatively normal, with a slight dip in recent days. 

“I think we will definitely see more in the next couple weeks,” she said. 

People do need movement of some kind to help maintain health, Yess said, but the key will be doing it in a responsible way. 

Like others, Yess Yoga will be monitoring the progression of the virus and is prepared to close down if necessary to benefit public health. But for small businesses like hers that depend on people coming in, it could make paying the bills a challenge. 

“Minneapolis has a lot of small businesses and a lot of them are very social, which is awesome, but at this time it’s really hard,” she said.

At True Grit Society Community Gym in LynLake some group classes have been canceled as the gym operators try to be cautious, according to co-owner Jen Wilson. The gym, which specializes in high-intensity group fitness, has many members who travel internationally, and True Grit has asked those members work out at home for a couple weeks to be safe. The gym has frozen those members’ accounts so they aren’t paying for services they can’t use. 

“It’s the least we can do for all our members,” she said. 

Jen and Marcus Wilson are opening True Grit Society
Jen and Marcus Wilson own True Grit Society, a high-intensity interval training gym in LynLake. File photo

Most fitness classes have continued, with an increase in equipment cleaning, she said. They’ve sent out extra reminders to members and instructors to stay home if they feel ill. 

“I think our members trust that we’re keeping their best interest in mind,” Wilson said. 

With public health officials recommending the cancellation of events with more than 250 people, True Grit made the decision to call off the “Uptown Makers Market” it had scheduled for March 28 where about 40 vendors were signed up to sell their goods alongside community yoga classes and food trucks. 

Jen and her husband and business partner, Marcus Wilson, have had discussions about what would happen if they have to close down due to the pandemic. They are concerned that there are no safety-net programs for businesses like theirs currently. 

Meanwhile products fly off the shelves at big box retailers as people buy tons of sanitary goods and food.

“So many small businesses are suffering but the biggest ones are making tons of money,” Wilson said. 

The Calhoun Beach Club in Cedar-Isles-Dean is adjusting its hours and suspending group fitness classes during the outbreak, according to an update sent to members. The gym will be open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the week and from 7 am to 3 p.m. on weekends to allow for additional cleaning shifts. Members have been checking themselves in to reduce physical exchanges with staff. People may only use every other piece of cardio equipment to create more space between exercisers.