Some fitness instructors and trainers at the Equinox gyms, with 23 locations in Southern California, tell the NBC4 I-Team they're refusing to go to work because they are afraid of getting infected with COVID-19.
This comes in the wake of a COVID-19 infection at the Beverly Hills branch of Equinox. A member--who worked out in the group fitness studio, cardio area, and strength floors on two recent days--tested positive for COVID-19, according to an email to other members of the club obtained by the I-Team.
"I'm very scared. I think the company is putting us at risk," said one trainer at multiple Equinox clubs who asked us not to use their name for fear of being fired.
Local news from across Southern California
Numerous trainers and instructors have posted on a Facebook group that they do not feel safe because of Equinox's policy about masks.
The company requires teachers and trainers to wear masks at all times, as well as members. But the company has one big exception for members: They can remove their masks inside the clubs "when vigorously exercising" and "during periods of intense exercise." Health experts have said those are times when people can spread a large amount of respiratory droplets.
"I do not feel safe teaching at Equinox right now. I would feel safe if members were required to wear masks at all times," said another longtime instructor who is now refusing to teach at the clubs.
Another trainer told the I-Team, "When you go into a space, especially inside, and you see people not wearing masks and breathing heavy, it's terrifying."
Some other fitness clubs have similar mask policies to Equinox's, but not all. Westwood Pilates on Westwood Blvd now requires everyone to wear a mask inside the gym at all times, no exceptions.
Equinox says on its website that it has added "a rigorous deep cleaning three times during the day and once overnight" since it reopened, and it is taking other safety measures, such as checking temperatures of members and employees when they enter the club.
In a statement to the I-Team, Equinox said it has "a comprehensive plan that builds on our already recognized high standards of health, safety, and cleanliness with policies that go above and beyond what is required by local law and health authorities.”
But some employees believe more members will test positive, like the one at the Beverly Hills location, until the chain requires everyone to wear masks inside the clubs at all times.
"It just doesn't seem very smart or very safe for me to teach in an environment where people are breathing hard and not wearing masks and spreading droplets," one trainer who is refusing to work, told the I-Team.