What You Need To Know: Gym Owner Does Not Want To Be 'A Vector For Death'
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Mark Lebos, owner of Strong Gym in Savannah, speaks to GPB News's Emily Jones about his concerns over the governor's announcement that some businesses — including gyms and hair salons — can open as soon as April 24.
So you have said that, even though you are allowed to reopen following the state guidelines, you're not planning on reopening your gym. Why is that?
Well, it's just not safe yet. The best thing to do in any profession is to adhere to best practices. I think that's what any business owners' lawyer would advise. And for my field, best practices are first and foremost, of course, taking care of the health and wellness of our clients. That's what we're here to do. And I tend to follow the guidelines of the American College of Sports Medicine, ACSM, and I have not found anything that indicates that they are supporting the notion of getting back into gyms just yet.
And then if you look at what's being advised by the CDC and medical and scientific professionals across the globe for that matter, it's just a little early yet. I think for all that, the reality is, is that many of our clients are elderly, retired and therefore at greater risk. Many of the people who come to a gym have preexisting conditions like diabetes, which is why they're coming to work out. They [could] have had cancer and are trying to regain their strength then and recover from these types of things. This would be just a devastating thing to be in the profession that I'm in.
We're here to help people get stronger and healthier and to have one of our clients die from something that happened at our facility would not be the exclamation point I would want in my career. I think we've done a pretty good job up until now of helping our clients. We don't want to be a vector for death. That would be a bad idea.
So, one of the reasons that the governor gave for allowing businesses like gyms in hair salons and those sorts of places to reopen in a kind of limited way is that unlike, you know, retail, they can do online sales or restaurants that can offer to-go food. There isn't really a way for a gym to operate and to make money. Is that a concern that you have?
Well, absolutely. I mean, it's a concern that really all Americans should have because it doesn't just affect my business. Obviously, we're talking about lots of people. Lots of people have businesses or employees that rely on that income to provide for their families. We all know that.
I just, in my particular instance, we are under a tremendous amount of financial pressure. You know, we have been closed down. I personally have been closed down since just before St. Patrick's Day. That was a time at which we were busy trying to find what's the best practice.
So I had a cleaning station at the entrance where you instantly sanitize your hands and phones. And then you had to go to the bathroom to wash your hands, put your stuff in a locker. And we cleaned every surface that you touched. When we did that for a good week; it's exhausting. And you go through an enormous amount of supplies doing that. And the reality is that everybody knew it, which is we're doing the best we can, but it might not be enough.
We need to step back. Let the doctors who are treating this treat it. And then if your child needs to go to the pediatrician and all that stuff, that's essential. Strong Gym and bowling and movies and all those things will wait, at least in my family.