Gyms in Virginia will be able to operate at 75 percent capacity during Phase III of reopening, which begins Wednesday, July 1, 2020.

Wednesday marks the start of a new month, and it also marks the start of Phase III in Virginia’s reopening plan.

That means changes are coming to the way businesses operate amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and it also affects how Virginians can exercise.

While gyms opened up as part of Phase II of Gov. Ralph Northam’s reopening plan, they’ll open to a larger capacity in Phase III. Restrictions surrounding both recreational sports and swimming also loosen in Phase III.

Here’s a closer look at what Phase III means for Virginians.

Gyms, fitness centers

One of the major changes for gyms for fitness centers is that occupancy “must be limited to no more than 75% of the lowest occupancy load on the certificate of occupancy.” This is an increase from the roughly 30% capacity gyms were asked to operate at when Phase II began.

Gym goers are still asked to maintain 10 feet of physical distance between other patrons. Understandably, this could become more challenging to put into practice as more people are allowed in gyms under Phase III guidelines.

Fitness centers are still advised to screen people before they enter the facility. Whether this means taking a person’s temperature, as a few ACAC locations in Charlottesville were doing at the start of Phase II, or just having them sign a waiver and answer a few questions like other locations are doing, is up to each fitness center.

Group exercise classes are allowed, assuming instructors and participants maintain 10 feet of social distance. ACAC recently announced that it will expand its group exercise offerings starting Wednesday. The organization will also extend the hours of its Charlottesville locations beginning Wednesday.

The Brooks Family YMCA also plans on easing restrictions in accordance with Phase III guidelines.

If you head out to the gym or fitness center, expect employees in customer-facing areas to still wear masks, and there should be hand sanitizing stations throughout facilities. Strict cleaning policies are still in place when it comes to shared equipment.

Swimming pools

Hot tubs, spas, saunas, spray pools and interactive play features are still closed. Indoor and outdoor swimming pools can open up at 75% occupancy under Phase III guidelines.

Physical distancing of 10 feet per swimmer is required, unless the people are from the same household. Under Phase II, only lap swimming was allowed. Phase III allows for “free swim.”

Additionally, people can sit on pool decks assuming there’s 10 feet of distance between each person.

Charlottesville public pools remain closed, according to the most recent guidance from the city.

Recreational sports

It’s recommended that people maintain 10 feet of distance whenever possible.

Shared equipment should be disinfected.

While basketball didn’t return at the beginning of Phase II, Charlottesville courts opened as of June 25. Any current court closures are due to maintenance, not COVID-19. Playgrounds on school property also opened in late June.

Picnic shelters, tennis courts, the Charlottesville skate park, athletic fields, Meadowcreek golf course and parking lots at various parks opened in Charlottesville as of June 25 as well. That will remain the same in Phase III.

The bottom line

There will be variation in openings depending on each city and business, but Phase III represents a step closer to normal when it comes to exercise in the commonwealth. Gyms, group classes and many recreational activities are allowed as we enter the summer months.

It’s important to note that the virus isn’t gone just because Phase III takes effect. It’s still important to distance from strangers, while taking proper safety precautions to avoid contracting the virus and passing it to others.

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