Roy Cooper refuses to open NC gyms, and now many members don’t plan to return, new survey finds

By John Trump

Raleigh, NC – Gyms are still closed in North Carolina, as Democratic Governor Roy Cooper remains among a small handful of governors refusing to reopen them.

barbell on the floor
Photo by Leon Martinez

In North Carolina, despite the closures, almost 16% of gym members say they have returned in some capacity, though just 39.5% of members surveyed plan to return when Cooper decides it’s safe enough to work out indoors. 

This places North Carolina among five states with the lowest percentage of gym members planning to return.

Those numbers are from the latest survey by RunRepeat, which specializes in shoes for athletes. The company surveyed 5,055 gym members worldwide to learn whether people are returning to gyms. This survey was run Aug. 1-13.

North Carolina, the study finds, had the fifth-highest percentage of gym members — 63.03% — who have canceled or are considering canceling their memberships. Further, North Carolina is one of seven states where indoor gyms are at least partially closed, according to a reopening dashboard from The New York Times. Four are in the West — Arizona, California, Washington, and Oregon. The others are North Carolina, New Jersey, and Michigan.

Six of those state’s governors, with the exception of Arizona’s, are Democrats.

In New Jersey, gyms have been closed for about six months, though Gov. Phil Murphy plans to announce their reopening, senior administration officials told NJ Advance Media, a report from that outlet’s website says. New Jersey gyms will be required to operate at no more than 25% of indoor capacity and follow other safety guidelines. The new rules go into effect Sept. 1, the story says.

“Gyms have been allowed to operate for about two months, but only on a limited basis,” the story says. “They have only been allowed to be used for personal trainers to give private lessons to individuals or multiple members of the same household or the same ‘bubble,’ as Murphy has referred to it.”

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, like Cooper in North Carolina, closed gyms six months ago and, too, refuses to reopen them. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, for instance, implemented rules many gym owners find impossible to follow. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, the Republican, planned to reopen gyms Thursday, Aug. 27, at limited capacity and with stringent rules, say reports. In Oregon, gyms are closed in counties with a high-rate of infection, media reports say.

In North Carolina, gyms, which were supposed to be included in Cooper’s Phase 2 reopening plan, have been closed since March, as have bars, bowling alleys, and movie theaters. Some gyms owners have opened in defiance of Cooper’s orders, and others have taken classes, weights, and even stationary bicycles outside.

There’s no telling when fitness centers will be allowed to reopen, Matt Shifflette told Carolina Journal’s Kari Travis. 

Shifflette is president of Orangetheory Growth Partners, a private equity business backing 20 or so popular Orangetheory franchise gyms in North Carolina.

The company has remained in touch with Cooper’s administration, but, writes Travis, the rent is still due. And so long as Orangetheory gyms remain closed, members aren’t paying fees. 

Dr. Mandy Cohen, state health department secretary, on Tuesday, Aug. 25, said unequivocally that gyms should not be open, even though some people are returning. She said gyms remain closed because people working out tend to breathe heavily, increasing the risk of infecting others. She noted that local governments are “working hard” to enforce gym closures and to do what’s necessary to keep them closed.