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Phase 2.5 is now in effect in NC, allowing gyms to reopen with restrictions

Governor Cooper referred to it as Safer at Home Phase 2.5, continuing the state's "dimmer switch" approach to easing restrictions.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced Tuesday that the state would be entering Safer at Home Phase 2.5, easing of some of the business and social restrictions he's put in place to limit the spread of coronavirus.

As part of the switch to Phase 2.5, limits to gatherings indoors will increase to 25 people and 50 people outdoors, playgrounds can reopen, museums and aquariums can reopen at 50% capacity, and gyms and other indoor exercise facilities can reopen at 30% capacity. 

Cooper and health officials urged the public to continue social distancing, wearing masks and taking washing hands frequently. The age for mask-wearing according to the mandate includes kids, Governor Cooper said, down to age 5.  

Safer at Home Phase 2.5 went into effect Friday at 5 p.m.

"Let’s keep doing what we know works," Gov. Cooper said. "Let’s stay strong, and let’s beat this virus. I know we can, and I know we can come out stronger on the other side."

At Inner Peaks Southend, prepping started early.

Owner, Doug Cosby is getting ready to welcome back climbers.

 "Five and a half months is a long time so we really needed this opportunity,” Cosby said.

There are sanitizing stations, markings on the ground, and a whole lot of space.

Cosby says climbers will have to add a mandatory mask to their workout gear.

"There's no expectations in the building, we found in fact that you can climb with a mask, it takes a little bit to get used to, but once you get used to it, it's okay,” Cosby said.

 Meanwhile, business owners like Brit Turner are deciding not to host workout classes indoors.

"I wouldn't want to put anyone at risk our clients have families our trainers have families,” Turner said.

Fit Atelier has been hosting outside classes in Uptown and will continue to do so. Under phase 2.5 gyms and exercise facilities have to operate under 30% capacity.

A cap, Turner says is a blow to her business.

"A 30 percent capacity in our uptown studio is probably like six or seven people and outside we can have as many as 15, easily spread even more than six feet apart,” Turner said.

While most businesses may never operate the same, Cosby is hopeful one day they’ll climb back to some sort of normal.

"We're very happy for our customers and our employees but we know we have a long way to go,” Cosby said.

Here's what's changing in North Carolina during Phase 2.5

  • Mass gathering limits will increase to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors from the previous limit of 10 indoors and 25 outdoors. 
  • Playgrounds may open. 
  • Museums and aquariums may open at 50% capacity. 
  • Gyms and indoor exercise facilities, such as yoga studios, martial arts, and rock climbing, as well as skating rinks, bowling alleys, indoor basketball, volleyball etc., may open at 30% capacity. 
  • Bars, nightclubs, movie theaters, indoor entertainment facilities, amusement parks, dance halls will remain closed. 
  • Large venues remain subject to the mass gathering limits. 

Fitness centers planning to adapt

By: Kendall Morris | Charlotte, N.C.

Many fitness facilities, like Orangetheory Fitness in South End, have been relying on outdoor workout classes to make it through the pandemic.

Jay Thomas, area developer for Orangetheory Fitness for Western North Carolina, owns nine of the 14 locations across the Charlotte area and South Carolina.

Thomas has been waiting nearly six months to reopen the North Carolina locations indoors, watching how other Orangetheory Fitness locations have handled bringing members back inside.

"We're happy,” Thomas said. “We're excited, excited for our members, excited for our employees, been waiting for this for almost six months. Can't wait to get back to work."

As soon as people arrive at Orangetheory Fitness, they’ll have a temperature check outside, be asked health screening questions, and will be given hand sanitizer.

Thomas said clients will be spaced out to be socially distanced in the studio and throughout the workout.

"We're confident that if we follow our procedures using CDC guidelines, EPA solutions and really mindful about social distancing and our procedures, that we can do this safely,” Thomas said.

AerialCLT is a fitness studio that teaches people to fly on aerial silks, trapeze, or lyra.

The business has tried to keep going for nearly six months through summer camps, private lessons, and support from a GoFundMe page.
“We've been trying to be good sports and play it safe and follow the rules as best we can, but also we're the ones that pay the price at the end of the day,” said Amy Chirico, owner of AerialCLT.

Chirico said she was hoping for an announcement of at least 50% capacity but is now faced with the 30% restriction.

"We just have to figure out the comfort of our students as well, how do we get the doors open and keep staff feeling comfortable, students feeling comfortable,” Chirico said.

Once the studio reopens, Chirico said temperature checks, health screening questions, and hand sanitizer will all be part of their safety protocol. There will also be no shared equipment or chalk and rosin.

“There’s been such a hole in so many people’s lives because this space has not been operating,” Chirico said. “So to just get bodies back in here, there’s just so much love and support in this studio that it’s a very meaningful relationship for so many people that we’ve really needed.”

As gym owners celebrate, bar owners still struggling

By: Hunter Sáenz | Charlotte, N.C.

Gina Hamilton, who owns Ride or Die Spin Studio in South End, was elated by the announcement. She said she will increase classes from two per day, to four per day, at 10 people per class which is 30% capacity for her fitness center. 

"I was really excited. I was like yes! Finally," she said. "It gives me hope, like light at the end of the tunnel."

She said she has been working with some indoor rides, and outdoor rides under a medical wavier exemption. 

She plans to take temperature checks for everyone who enters her spin studio. Masks are mandatory until you get on the bikes, which are more than six feet apart. 

Every bike and weight will be cleaned before and after each use with two different COVID-19 killing chemicals. 

But it's not cheers for everyone. Bar owners are still mandated to keep their business closed. 

"We're very disappointed, but we're not surprised," said Michaele Laria, who owns Jeff's Bucket Shop with her husband. 

The Charlotte staple which has been around for 17 years, has only been open for 10 weeks in 2020, according to Laria. 

"They let us down every time," she added. "It's not fair. It's just not fair."

RELATED: 'Why do we have to pay the price for everything?' | Bar, gym owners react to NC Phase 2 extension

The business was debt-free, but that's changed due to the prolonged shutdown. Laria said the bar will survive, but they haven't been approved for an SBA loan and they've applied three different times. 

Still, Laria is optimistic, but she has no idea when to expect to reopen.