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Health & Science

YMCA of Greater Cleveland Drops Mask Requirement

Drazen Zigic
The YMCA of Greater Cleveland will no longer require that members wear masks while exercising, but a MetroHealth physician says wearing a mask is the safer option.

The YMCA of Greater Cleveland is changing the requirement that its members wear masks while exercising, but one local physician is advising that people continue to wear masks even if not required by the gym.

After Ohio allowed fitness centers to reopen after the initial coronavirus shutdown, the YMCA's original policy was to let members go maskless while actively exercising.

Officials, however, enacted stricter guidelines in late 2020 over the holidays to try to prevent expected COVID-19 community spread, said Joe Cerny, the organization’s vice president of property.

“The whole culture and environment around COVID continues to change, and we’re likely to continue to evolve and change with it,” Cerny said. 

Many other gyms do not require masks while working out, including Planet Fitness and Anytime Fitness. 

The YMCA's policies have followed guidance from the state, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization, he said.

But Dr. David Margolius, division director of internal medicine at MetroHealth, recommends people wear masks while exercising indoors, even if it’s not required. 

There are masks that can be worn safely while exercising, Dr. Margolius said.

“I would say the safest thing is exercise outside,” he said. “The next safest thing is exercising inside, wearing a mask, spaced out from other people.”

Even though the general messaging around masks is to wear them to prevent your germs from spreading to those around you, there is some evidence that masks may protect the wearer, Margolius said.

“If there’s a way to do something safely, that’s the best bet. Exercising in gyms is a perfect example because you can do that in the safest way possible by wearing a mask,” Margolius said.

“Why risk it? Why work out in a gym without a mask when you know a safer option is available and you can get the same benefits," he said.

Ohio issued guidelines when gyms and fitness centers were allowed to reopen, but state officials allowed each business and organization to determine whether they would require participants to wear masks while actively working out.  

The Akron-area YMCA currently requires masks while exercising, but a spokeswoman said the policy will change Wednesday to only require masks while not actively working out. 

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