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Gym owners on state removing mask mandate: 'it's long overdue'

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Mask signs are starting to come down at gyms up and down the First State.

Gov. John Carney announced Friday, per CDC guidance, the state will no longer require masks in public settings effective Friday the 21st. Social distancing requirements will be eased on the same date as well.

Some gym owners are applauding the decision.

“We’re certainly happy about it, relieved by it. We feel like it’s long overdue,” said Frank Shelton, the owner of The Village Gym in Middletown. “I’ve already heard from the vast majority of my membership, they’re very pleased.”

Gyms were shut down statewide for more than two months last year. Upon reopening, gyms also had to space out equipment and limit fire-code capacity.

The initial state guidance did not require masks while exercising, but officials later changed it to require masks at all times while in the gym. 

Michael Anthony owns Everyone Fitness in Rehoboth Beach. He says things are starting to go back to normal at his gym now that masks are to be optional.

“I think there will be some people who wear a mask forever, but the overall consensus is people are really happy about it. I don’t see anybody upset,” said Anthony. “It was a really big struggle there for a while—the people that were really about masks and the people that weren’t. People were almost getting in fights over it. It was kind of crazy for a while.”   

Both Anthony and Shelton say restrictions during the pandemic hurt their respective gym’s bottom line. Both also say they had multiple visits from the state Division of Public Health, but neither were fined. 

“Some members were calling the health department saying we weren’t upholding the policies, but we were the entire time,” said Anthony. “We’re a 20,000 square foot facility. It’s hard to police every person in here.”

Jacob Atkinson is Director at Alpha Training in Newark. He also applauds Gov. John Carney’s move to lift the mandate, but adds people were already starting to feel more confident about heading to the gym anyway.

“We see business coming back naturally on its own, to be honest with you, kind of outside of what the governor did,” said Atkinson. “I feel like people just used a lot of common sense of feeling like they were safe and ok.”    

Delaware has only given out two fines to date to a gym for not following COVID rules.

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