With the new year comes the inevitable resolution to shed weight, get in shape and generally lead a more active life. But those planning to hit the gym should be prepared to present COVID-19 vaccination cards before pumping iron. The Cook County Department of Public Health’s proof of vaccination mandate went into effect Jan. 3, and a similar mandate from the Oak Park Public Health Department is close behind.
Across the western suburbs, fitness establishment proprietors are doing their part to abide by the county mandate, which was revised late Jan. 3 to include more substantive information regarding exemptions.
Oak Park Public Health Director Theresa Chapple-McGruder told Wednesday Journal the village is “reviewing the updates” to the county’s order but no decisions have been made regarding possible revisions to the Oak Park mandate, which goes into effect Jan. 11.
FFC Oak Park on Lake Street in downtown Oak Park is ahead of the game. The gym’s manager Jeff Long said the gym began collecting proof of vaccination about 10 days ago. All FFC members received an email from the gym informing them of the impending mandate.
“Once we sent the email out letting them know that this was coming, members just started bringing in their cards and showing us,” said Long.
Blink Fitness in North Riverside also alerted its members that they would soon need to bring in their vaccine cards. Following the Dec. 23 announcement of the county’s mandate, manager Evelyn Perez said her Blink location issued fliers, sent emails and made calls to patrons.
Now that the mandate has gone into effect, Perez said the Blink location has not encountered any problems from members so far.
“We haven’t had any upset members,” she said. “We have had a couple cancellations due to them being unvaccinated.”
Blink Fitness is offering unvaccinated members the option to temporarily freeze their membership until they are fully vaccinated.
Children aged 18 and under participating in youth athletics or recreation are exempt from the county’s mandate, providing the activities take place in establishments that do not provide food or drink.
Regardless, non-profit Tri-Star Gymnastics in Forest Park is still asking for all eligible students to present proof of COVID-19 vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has authorized COVID-19 vaccinations for children as young as five.
“We want our kids to be safe,” said Tri-Star co-founder Lynn Allen. “We have some families that lost family members in 2020.”
Tri-Star is still allowing unvaccinated children to participate in gymnastics through Tri-Star, but the gym has lost roughly 30 students for merely requesting proof of vaccination, according to Allen. About 350 kids take lessons at Tri-Star or compete on one of its gymnastics teams. Tri-Star’s young clientele range in age from kids just able to walk to 18-year-olds.
“We’re hoping parents don’t go ballistic,” Allen said of Tri-Star’s request for vaccination proof.
The gymnastics studio requires masks at all times. Students and competitive team members are required to stand on stars affixed to the floor. The stars are placed six feet apart from each other, so social distancing is always practiced. Most parents have been generally respectful of Tri-Star’s safety precautions, according to Allen. But if any take issue with the gym’s stance on vaccination proof, they can take their business elsewhere.
“You’re free to go to another gym,” Allen said.