What the Hell Are the COVID-19 Rules for Denver Gyms Now?

Gyms are allowed to stay open in Denver — for now.
Gyms are allowed to stay open in Denver — for now. Denver7 via YouTube
The spiking of COVID-19 cases in Denver has resulted in the city being moved to Safer at Home Level 3 (High Risk) on the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's dial system, as well as plenty of confusion about what the new rules mean for local businesses.

That's particularly true of gyms. During the October 27 announcement of the shift, Denver Department of Public Health and Environment's Bob McDonald admitted that rules previously prohibiting such facilities in Level 3 communities from serving customers indoors were in flux and promised that greater clarity would be coming — an answer that sowed more confusion than it alleviated. After all, concerns about gyms, yoga studios and the like have been common since the early days of the pandemic, with such operations fending off complaints about safety amid a shifting regulatory landscape that has resulted in some of these operations closing their doors permanently.

Now, however, the CDPHE has amended its public-health order to allow gyms in Denver to continue operating despite the Safer at Home Level 3 designation, albeit with considerably reduced capacity. And that's not the only change. The department previously stated that gym customers could go mask-free while exercising, but that's no longer the case.

To cut through the uncertainty, Westword reached out to the CDPHE to clarify the current gym mandates. The answers don't exactly qualify as an endorsement of working out at gyms; see what we mean below:

Westword: Were gyms previously among those businesses that were supposed to close under Safer at Home Level 3?

CDPHE: Previously, under Safer at Home Level 3, gyms could operate virtually or outdoors in groups of more than ten.

Has the state changed that guidance — and if so, what are the current rules?

We updated the Safer at Home public-health order this week. The order provides greater flexibility to gyms located in counties in Safer at Home Level 3.

Gyms are allowed to operate with the following capacity limits per room indoors or per designated activity area outdoors:

Safer at Home 1: 25 percent capacity, 75 people, whichever is fewer.

Safer at Home 2: 25 percent capacity, 50 people, whichever is fewer.

UPDATED: Safer at Home 3: 25 percent capacity, 25 people, whichever is fewer.

Why was the change made?

The change comes after feedback from stakeholders and local public-health agencies, as well as assessing case interview and outbreak data. The order provides greater flexibility to gyms located in counties in Safer at Home Level 3.

Are more changes in the guidelines imminent, or is the current policy likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future?

Executive and public-health orders are amended as we learn more about the spread of COVID-19. This is a rapidly evolving situation, and we must be fluid in our response to it.

How safe is working out at a gym located in a community with a Safer at Home Level 3 designation?

Working out at a gym is a higher-risk activity because it is indoors and is dependent on the frequency of cleaning, crowd size and whether others wear masks. Higher-risk people should consider safer alternatives, such as outdoor or home exercise.

In the past, the department has said masks don't need to be worn at gyms while individuals are exercising. Is that still the case, or has that changed — and if so, what is the current regulation?

Executive Order D 2020 138, signed on July 16, required that masks be worn in all indoor public spaces, including gyms. As part of the statewide mask order, it remains in effect.

What are the best safety protocols for people to use in gyms generally, and particularly in Denver, under the current scenario?

Exercising indoors at a gym is a higher-risk activity. Gym clients should physically distance, wear a mask and wash their hands frequently. Exercising outdoors is safer.

Is there anything else on this subject that you feel is important to add?

We are seeing an increase in cases and hospitalizations, and it is more important than ever that we work together to stop the spread of COVID-19. Everyone should wear a mask, physically distance, limit gatherings to ten people and no more than two households, and wash their hands frequently.

People who have tested positive should isolate at least ten days or until they have no fever for 24 hours (without the help of fever-reducing medicine) and their symptoms have improved. People who have symptoms should get tested immediately. If a person has been exposed but doesn’t have symptoms, they should wait seven days from exposure, and must remain in quarantine for fourteen days, regardless of test results.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts