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Over the past few days, many states have begun to shift from a stay-at-home order to a more moderate approach. With this shift comes the reopening of businesses, including climbing gyms. A few gyms have opened over the past week, with the first likely being Treadstone Climbing Gym in Columbus, Georgia.
The Governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, has decided to allow the reopening of gyms, hair salons, bowling alleys, and similar businesses as of April 24, and movie theaters and restaurants as of April 27. Federal recommendations suggest it’s too soon. According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Georgia has tested far fewer people than most states, less than 1% of their population. Of this tested population, 23% were positive, higher than the national average. Despite this, Georgia has had only reported 818 deaths of the United States’ total of nearly 60,000.
Treadstone reopened its doors last Friday, April 24. Owner Marc Heilman wants his community to know that they are taking every precaution to remain safe through their re-opening. In the coming months, they will be capping the number of people allowed in the gym at any given time to 20. “I’m anything but a Covid denier,” Heilman says, “I’ve got a family of four, with two young boys, so I take it seriously.”
The opening weekend of Treadstone has been quite successful, being met with a largely positive response. When asked if there was concern among the community, Heilman says there has been only one mild rebuke. Although slow at first, more and more climbers have been coming in every day, and they expect numbers to keep climbing.
One of the things which informed Heilman’s decision to reopen was his experience going to similarly sized stores. “I’ve been to Home Depot and Lowe’s twice a day, every day, and been around lots of people. We’re not wearing masks; we’re just not spitting in each other’s faces. It’s been fine. When I went to those big stores, there would be 100 people around me the whole time. I would ask the employees, ‘Are you seeing your coworkers going home sick with Covid?’ And they would say no. That really informed me.” He believes that this, in addition to a culture of cleanliness, including washing hands, and wiping down workout equipment, is more than enough to deem Treadstone safe for reopening.
Treadstone Climbing Gym employs 22 people, which Heilman takes very seriously. All of the employees were kept on payroll throughout the closure, but Heilman could not continue paying them indefinitely. Finding a balance between economic risk and health risk is crucial. At this point, Heilman finds health risks minimal enough to reopen.
Feature image from Treadstone Climbing Gym