“According to the guidance that the Attorney General’s office has provided regarding the use of indoor gyms as medical care, a gym may be open to provide services that have been prescribed or directed by a medical professional.”
– Emily Ritter, Macon County Public Health
Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer
After more than three months of being closed due to COVID-19, Franklin Health and Fitness announced late last week that they would be opening their doors with safety precautions despite Governor Roy Cooper’s Executive Order banning gyms from opening during Phase 2.
“Franklin Health and Fitness is opening legally because the governor is allowing the ‘use of indoor gyms or fitness facilities when that use is prescribed by or directed by a medical professional,’ the facility posted to their Facebook page on Friday. “Your right to privacy is recognized and respected by this facility. In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Members and Guests will not be required to disclose any medical information or disability.”
Gyms aren’t allowed to ask members for medical waivers or to talk about medical history because of the Americans with Disabilities Act and medical privacy laws. So, many are now opening their doors with a stipulation that people working out must have a doctor’s note – but they can’t ask to see it.
The medical provision loophole in the law came after Phillip Rubin, Special Deputy Attorney General—Special Litigation Section, sent an email answering questions specifically about the exemption. According to Rubin, “this exemption applies, for example, to physical or occupational therapy ordered by a medical professional. In many cases, physical or occupational therapists’ equipment is part of a hospital facility or doctor’s office, but if health care professionals determine that specific patients with medical conditions need to utilize equipment at an indoor gym or fitness center, such care would not undermine the public-health rationale of the Phase Two order. Because the number of individuals taking advantage of this exemption will be low, the risk of the public is reduced versus opening these facilities to the general public at this time.”
Macon County Emergency Management Director said that after learning of the precautions the facility intends to take, he isn’t concerned about the reopening.
“I don’t have any concerns at the moment based on the information available so far,” said Cabe. “It is encouraging that businesses are trying to maintain sanitation and social distancing but there could always be issues that arise not just at this specific facility but at any facility frequented by customers.”
Franklin Health and Fitness will be closing nightly from 8-9 p.m. to disinfect the entire facility with a new efficient Electric Atomizer Sprayer (Fogger) and a Electrostatic Sprayer.
Cabe said no similar discussions between the county’s emergency management and his office have occurred up until this point.
“There have not been a lot of questions from similar facilities directed toward the Emergency Management office, especially as related to this specific interpretation,” Cabe. “The NC Governor’s Executive Orders were obviously not issued by Macon County. County staff can assist with some questions but the official interpretation/opinion on compliance will be from the NC Governor’s Office or an appropriate NC department or agency. Any specific questions from businesses concerning an official opinion on what is and is not allowed per the Executive Orders are referred to NC Emergency Management to be submitted to legal staff with N.C. for review.”
Macon County Department of Public Health Public Information Officer said that Franklin Health and Fitness are permitted to reopen under the law.
“According to the guidance that the Attorney General’s office has provided regarding the use of indoor gyms as medical care, a gym may be open to provide services that have been prescribed or directed by a medical professional,” said Ritter. “County officials have met with the management at FHFC and gone over the specific occupancy, distancing and sanitation requirements for operating in these circumstances.”
For additional details regarding Franklin Health and Fitness, visit their Facebook page or contact the facility at (828)369-5608.