Springfield YMCA group health courses resume

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John Kerly uses a disinfectant wipe to remove a kettle bell he used during a personal boot camp group practice class at the Downtown YMCA in Springfield on Friday. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]

Group fitness classes are officially back at the YMCA.

Local members can once again use the locker rooms and showers and take advantage of the various courses offered throughout the day at both YMCA locations in Springfield. From this weekend, youth sports and clinics will also be resumed to a limited extent.

“Masks are required when entering and exiting the facility, entering and exiting your exercise room, and in all public areas,” said Angie Sowle, CEO of Springfield YMCA, on Friday. “Really, everything but the actual exercise itself requires masks.”

The gym staff must wear masks at all times.

With Sangamon County returning to the less restrictive Phase 4 of the state’s Restore Illinois Plan on Monday, while Springfield continues to enforce a mask mandate, confusion continues among gym owners and members about when to remove the mask and when not in fitness facilities.

“We got some fitness centers called and asked if they still need to wear the masks when they work out in a group and things like that,” Jim Langfelder, Mayor of Springfield, told The State Journal-Register Thursday night. “There it is a little more restrictive than the guidelines of the state.”

In phase 4, people do not need to wear masks when exercising in fitness facilities. However, Langfelder plans to keep this restrictive measure on-site for the next two or three weeks to see the impact of the reopening on COVID-19 positivity rates.

Sowle compared the masking policy followed by the YMCA to the city’s draft for its current masking mandate for restaurants that require masks to enter and public areas.

“It’s like wearing a mask except when you’re actively eating,” she explained. “That’s what we say when we’re wearing a mask, except when we’re actively exercising.”

For personal fitness classes, the number of people who can register for sessions is limited. Limits vary based on the size of the gym and your ability to stay within two meters of your feet while participating in a session. Markings on the floors allow people to make sure they keep their distance and no class will exceed 25 people.

Virtual courses are still available for those who wish to attend remotely.

According to Langfelder, the city’s current mask guidelines for gyms are a precaution as Springfield remains in “pretty good shape” with its positivity rates. However, he does point out that Springfield’s hospitals have been affected by the surrounding areas.

According to Sowle, the YMCA was never informed that the city’s mask mandate applies to people who actively exercise. However, she admits that the different policies based on state, regional, and city restrictions can be confusing for many trying to do their part to stay healthy and protect others in the community.

“There are many guides and there are many platforms to get information,” she said. “It can be very contradicting and very confusing.”

You can contact Natalie Pierre by email at npierre@gannett.com or on Twitter @NataliePierre_.