First 10 States to Reopen Provide Rules Affecting Health Clubs

    Requirements for businesses to reopen vary wildly from state to state. Here's what the first 10 states required, with a special focus on spacing/limits, face coverings, and entry prohibitions.

    Disclaimer: This list is not to serve as a checklist for those in each open state. Businesses should always check their state’s latest guidance issued by their governor and department of health.

    IHRSA reviewed the guidelines and requirements issued in the first 10 states to allow indoor fitness operations to resume.

    Every state has—or will have—general guidelines for businesses related to coronavirus-sanitation protocols. All fitness centers should review their state’s general business protocols in addition to any health club-specific requirements.

    The states below demonstrate the wide breadth of guidance and requirements released so far. Our goal is to help all fitness businesses—no matter their location—understand what may be asked of them when they eventually are allowed to open.

    States will continue to open in stages and issue protocols for fitness centers after this is published. Thus, this piece only covers the first 10 states to reopen health clubs:

    • Arkansas,
    • Georgia,
    • Iowa,
    • Missouri,
    • North Dakota,
    • Oklahoma,
    • South Dakota,
    • Tennessee,
    • Utah, and
    • Wyoming.
    State Gym Policy Comparison Column Width


    On May 4, the governor of Arkansas lifted the closure of fitness centers. The directives for fitness clubs include (but are not limited to): temperature checks for staff, screening for staff and patrons, and for equipment to be sanitized after each use.

    Face coverings: Required for staff and patrons, except when actively exercising.

    Space limits:

    • 12-foot distancing while working out and during training sessions or classes;
    • No personal contact;
    • No pools, spas, showers, or saunas.

    No entry for: Recent travelers to New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Orleans, LA, and overseas. Anyone with compromised immune systems or chronic diseases.


    Georgia was the first of the states that closed to open its doors. Fitness centers must implement the following measures (including but not limited to): signage saying you cannot enter if diagnosed with, experiencing symptoms of, or been in contact with someone with COVID-19; requiring workers to patrol patron areas, wiping down and sanitizing equipment; utilizing touch-less check-in.

    Face coverings: Are “encouraged outside the home, except when exercising outdoors.”

    Space limits:

    • Limiting occupancy to allow six (6) feet of distance between all patrons;
    • Group classes to be halted;
    • No congregating anywhere;
    • No pools, basketball courts, saunas, or hot tubs.

    No entry for: Patrons exhibiting a temperature greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, cough, shortness of breath, or other respiratory symptoms.


    Beginning May 1, Gov. Kim Reynolds implemented a regional opening, initially only allowing fitness centers to open in a restricted capacity in 77 of the state’s 99 counties. In these counties, the expectation is that health clubs implement “reasonable measures” to ensure social distancing, increased hygiene practices, and other measures consistent with guidance issued by the Iowa Department of Public Health.

    Face coverings: Not addressed

    Space limits:

    • Capacity limited to 50% of its maximum legal occupancy;
    • All equipment must be spaced at least six feet apart (or ensure closely-spaced equipment isn’t used);
    • Group activities or classes must be limited to 10 or fewer people, and all participants must maintain a distance of six feet at all times.

    No Entry for: Not specified.


    Although Gov. Mike Parson began the first phase of Missouri’s reopening on Monday, May 4, some areas (including Kansas City, St. Louis City and County, and Jackson County) have not reopened yet. As such, local guidance in Missouri may be different or more stringent than the state’s guidance.

    Missouri is also one of the few states that have not yet published specific guidelines for gyms and health clubs, but instead applies general business guidelines:

    Face coverings: Not addressed.

    Space limits:

    • Maintaining six feet between all patrons and employees;
    • For locations less than 10,000 square feet, they must maintain 25% or less of the authorized occupancy;
    • For locations 10,000 square feet or greater, they must maintain 10% or less of the authorized occupancy;
    • If your locality does not have a fire code, the formula for capacity can be found here.

    No entry for: Patrons or employees displaying symptoms.

    North Dakota

    North Dakota has many guidelines including but not limited to: fitness centers must complete and have on file the “Workplace Assessment Tool for COVID-19;” conduct pre-registration for fitness class(es) with special instructions and self-verification process; and suspend 24-hour facility use and child care until the lift of social distancing.

    Face Coverings: When possible, the personal trainer wears a mask during one-to-one personal training (while maintaining social distancing).

    Space limits:

    • Provide markers for lines to allow a minimum of six feet of separation until the suspension of social distancing recommendations;
    • A minimum distance of six feet between workout equipment;
    • Limit fitness classes to one participant/staff per 144 square feet, or 12’x12’ grid layout if providing markers on floor area(s);
    • Saunas, jacuzzi, hot tubs, steam rooms limited to one person per 100 square feet;
    • Close pools, locker rooms, and showers.

    No entry for: Not specified.


    In Oklahoma, fitness centers have been able to reopen since May 1, and are to adhere to the sanitation and disinfecting protocols and social distancing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

    The use of touchless infrared thermometers is encouraged to check employee temperatures daily. You can find other sanitary measures specified by Oklahoma here.

    Face coverings: Consider providing face masks for employees that regularly interact with the public.

    Space limits:

    • If possible, exercise equipment should be arranged so patrons can maintain six feet of social distancing while using equipment;
    • Limit fitness classes to maintain six feet of distance between all patrons;
    • Patrons should maintain six feet of social distancing inside the facility.

    No entry for: patrons exhibiting symptoms of fever or sickness; employees with a temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit are recommended to be sent home.

    South Dakota

    South Dakota never mandated fitness clubs close. Their “Back to Normal” plan includes suggestions such as following the employee screening checklist.

    Face coverings: Masks have never been required in South Dakota, but residents are encouraged to continue to consider CDC guidance and use.

    Space limits:

    • Maintain six feet of physical separation;
    • Resume operations in a manner that allows for reasonable physical distancing, good hygiene, and appropriate sanitation;
    • Consider restricting occupancy;
    • Suspend or modify business practices as recommended by CDC guidance that involve 10 or more people to be in an enclosed space where physical separation of at least six feet is not possible.

    No entry for: Employees with a temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or symptoms of fever.


    Since Tennessee opened fitness centers on May 1, they have released detailed guidelines. These guidelines include (but are not limited to): requiring fitness clubs to screen both employees and patrons before entry, at minimum, and asking patrons three exposure questions:

    1. Have you been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19?
    2. Are you experiencing a cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat?
    3. Have you had a fever in the last 48 hours?

    Face coverings: Staff should wear face coverings (not N-95 or medical masks, which should be reserved for healthcare workers) and other personal protection items as recommended by the CDC.

    Space limits:

    • Restrict facility access to staffed hours only;
    • Limit facility occupancy to 50% of capacity as dictated by fire code;
    • Limit capacity to allow for safe social distancing, a minimum of six feet whenever possible;
    • Close all pools, showers, locker rooms, hot tubs, and saunas.

    No entry for: Persons with temperatures above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.


    On May 1, Utah moved into the Moderate Risk category. The governor recommends fitness centers remain closed. If clubs open, businesses must follow strict distancing and cleaning guidelines, including (but not limited to): no group activities, no sign-in sheets, touchpads, or touch-surfaces required of patrons.

    These also include requiring symptom checks for all employees before every shift and keeping a log of staff temperatures available for inspection by the health department.

    Face coverings: Are required of employees and encouraged for patrons.

    Space limits:

    • One person per 100 square feet;
    • Space or close off equipment, so patrons maintain 10 feet of distance* at all times;
    • Pools limited to 50% pool capacity, one swimmer per lane, congregating on the pool deck is not allowed.

    *Utah increased the required physical distance to 10 feet in this category to account for movement, exertion, and prolonged exposure. Physical distancing requirements will be evaluated for incremental decreases in future phases based on data.

    No entry for: High-risk individuals.


    Wyoming declared that fitness centers could open in a restricted capacity on May 1. They have implemented the following procedures: staff screening at the beginning of every shift, facility must maintain a record of customer usage and staff working hours by date and time for potential contact tracing purposes, and workout equipment must be cleaned by staff in-between each patron's use.

    Face coverings: Staff must wear face coverings at all times.

    Space limits:

    • No more than nine patrons allowed in a given room or section at any given time;
    • The overall number of patrons in the entire facility must not exceed one person per 120 square feet;
    • Equipment must be no less than six feet apart;
    • Close-contact activities are prohibited, including but not limited to personal training and weight lifting “spotters” and group workout classes;
    • Swimming pools must be limited to one swimmer per lane;
    • Spas and saunas must remain closed.

    No entry for: Staff with symptoms or known exposure within the previous 14 days.

    Be Prepared For When Your State Opens

    As you can see, state guidelines differ significantly between health club-specific rules and general business guidelines. Regardless of what shape your state’s reopen plan takes, we encourage all clubs to familiarize themselves with the EPA’s (Environmental Protection Agency) list of products for use against COVID-19.

    IHRSA is currently following up with governors in all states that have not reopened gyms to offer a framework, which we encourage them to use in considering reopening health clubs.

    If you have not already, please contact your governor to educate them on the safety measures your health club plans to deploy to protect your members and employees.

    Author avatar

    Olivia MacLennan

    Olivia MacLennan previously served as IHRSA's Government Relations Coordinator—a position that supported IHRSA members in communicating with legislators while tracking legislation, drafting testimony and alerts, and responding to member inquiries on legal issues.