SIERRA VISTA — After ensuring that they’ve done everything in their power to keep their facilities as COVID-19-proof as possible, a handful of gyms and one movie theater are once again open for business, or will be soon.
The requirements set forth by the state’s Department of Health Services were copious, but managers and owners at some of the gyms in the city, as well as the proprietor of the Uptown 3 Theatre, complied with each stipulation in order to get the open sign back in the window.
Tuesday morning, Bobby Vogelgesand mopped the floor in one of the Uptown’s theaters, which holds 150 people when at full capacity. Based on the state’s guidelines, Uptown can operate at 50 percent capacity.
“We had to tape off every other row,” Vogelgesand said. “We also have to put hand sanitizer everywhere.”
Owner Dee Cortez-Foote shared the state’s COVID-19 guidelines and what her business is doing to keep its patrons virus-free with the Herald/Review. Cortez-Foote had a friend print out the guidelines, make several copies and place them in a plastic cover. As dictated by the Department of Health Services, the guidelines have to be posted on the theater’s walls so that customers can be reassured, Cortez-Foote said.
Maricopa County Superior Judge Timothy Thomason earlier this month ordered Gov. Doug Ducey to come up with a system telling businesses what they needed to do to reopen. The judge ruled that indoor gyms and fitness clubs had to be provided an opportunity to apply for reopening.
State Health Director Cara Christ responded to the order with a set of metrics, essentially telling gyms and fitness centers they can open their doors only when the spread of COVID-19 is no longer “substantial.’’
A website was established by the Department of Health Services so that businesses such as Cortez-Foote’s could “attest” that they have instituted guidelines in compliance with COVID-19 guidance related to business operations.
The website also shows whether the spread of the virus in each Arizona county is minimal, moderate or substantial. Certain businesses, such as gyms and movie theatres, can’t open in counties where the spread of COVID-19 is substantial.
So far, the spread is down to moderate in only Cochise and Yavapai counties, the state website shows.
But under orders from Thomason, Christ said other businesses in the 13 other counties can apply to reopen if officials can show their operations would not endanger public health.
This is the statement business owners in the other 13 counties would see on the state’s website if they were to apply to open their doors: “You are in a county with COVID-19 transmission level that does not make your establishment eligible to reopen at this time. If you believe that you are taking or can take additional steps beyond those required in the Guidelines and Benchmarks that would allow your business to operate safely, you may choose to submit an application for approval to reopen by completing the form here and providing details about your enhanced mitigation strategies.”
Some of the guidelines for movie theaters that must be employed and attested to by managers or owners include: Hand hygiene & respiratory etiquette; enhanced cleaning, proper ventilation; symptom screening for staff; physical distancing (6 feet); masks and concession area policies.
The guidelines for gyms and health clubs are the same except instead of concession area policies, they’re required to close communal spaces.
While movie theatres in “moderate” counties are allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity, gyms are only allowed to operate at 25 percent.
At the Planet Fitness on Highway 90, Maleah Latting, vice president of operations, was happy to be able to let customers in again.
“Our members were just thrilled that we’re open,” Latting said. “They said we should have never closed.”
Latting said the state’s rules and guidelines, and what the gym has done to comply with them, are posted all over the facility.
The same was done at Summit Fitness on East Fry Boulevard and Buena Health Fitness on Wilcox Drive.
Buena Health owner Hank Diaz said he’s even covered the water fountains at his gym.
“That’s where you can get the most droplets,” he said.
Back at the Uptown 3, Cortez-Foote unfurled several colorful posters of upcoming films. She’s hopeful that people will show up Friday for a new release called “Unhinged.” Her other offering is the 1985 classic, “The Goonies.” She is unsure about the third movie that’s coming.
The movie house opens at noon and masks are required until moviegoers sit down in the theater. One of the state’s COVID-19 guidelines for theaters is that condiments for foods like hot dogs and popcorn must be requested because they’re no longer available at the counter.
“They don’t want people touching everything like they used to,” Dee-Cortez said.