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Our View: Gyms have reopened but exercising caution remains key

The quest for a return to normalcy for Carroll County and all of Maryland continued in a major way last week as more restrictions imposed by coronavirus-related executive orders from Gov. Larry Hogan were lifted.

The first phase of reopening had included retail stores with 50% capacity, some manufacturing, personal services like barbershops, etc. Then, June 12 was a key date because that’s when restaurants were allowed to once again offer indoor dining, at reduced capacity. Finally, this past Friday, June 19, saw more progress, paving the way for gyms and fitness centers, indoor malls and even casinos to reopen.

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The weightlifters, shoppers and gamblers will have to practice social distancing and adhere to other measures, but the state’s reopening is now far along, to the delight of business owners. Beau Bryant’s Westminster Strength & Conditioning, for example, held outdoor classes last month to stay afloat, but moving back inside to more normal operations was critical for his livelihood.

“I have four kids, my wife has other commitments,” he told us prior to Friday. “It’s just going to be nice to go back to my old work schedule. Get our coaches back in there making money, too. It’s just going to feel … almost normal again.”

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Almost. Of course, reopening amid the pandemic is easier said than done. As restaurateurs had already been learning, simultaneously ramping up operations while taking numerous special precautions to adhere to all guidelines and to make valued customers feel safe is quite a task.

Shelly Fulton, manager of the Family Fitness Center in Westminster, said her facility wouldn’t open until June 22, and, in addition to altered hours and reduced capacity, precautions taken include moving equipment 6 feet apart, bringing on more staff members to aid in temperature-taking and screening questions for every guest and adding direction signs for one-way traffic throughout the building.

“There’s a whole lot that goes into it, lots of communication with the staff regarding all the COVID-19 guidelines,” Fulton told us. “We’ve had to make sure that we have a system set up so that if any equipment is touched, it will be sanitized afterwards [as well].”

Of course, the elephant in the room (and the gyms and malls and casinos and restaurants) is the possible return of the novel coronavirus.

Right now, the county and state appear to be in excellent shape. Hospitalizations in Maryland are at their lowest point in two months. And the Carroll County Health Department reported just 19 new positive tests from June 13-19 after 26 the previous week. Carroll had been averaging 97 new cases over the prior 10 weeks.

We can’t emphasize this strenuously enough, however: This is not the time to declare “mission accomplished.”

Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, last week told The Sun that Maryland is opening up too quickly. And Carroll County Health Officer Ed Singer told us, “We’re probably going to see somewhat of a spike as we open things back up.”

That’s what is happening in a concerning number of states that reopened earlier than Maryland. According to Johns Hopkins University data, Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina and Texas all saw record high cases in the last week.

While we are glad business owners can resume making a living and residents can resume many of their normal activities, and while we concede there is a delicate balance when it comes to freedom, our economy and public health, we urge everyone to continue wearing face masks, social distancing and staying in as much as possible.

Exercising is, without a doubt, important. But not as important as exercising caution right now.

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