- On Monday, Planet Fitness announced it would require members to wear masks at its gyms at all times starting August 1.
- Planet Fitness is the first major fitness chain to require masks, although many retailers like Walmart have already implemented their own mask mandates.
- However, mask mandates aren’t easily enforced, and without government support, policies from individual retailers push the responsibility — and risk — of enforcing onto employees.
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Planet Fitness will require all members to wear masks in its gyms at all times starting August 1, the chain announced in a press release on Monday.
Although many retail chains and restaurants have already required masks, Planet Fitness is the first major fitness chain to require masks while working out.
“As we continue to face the COVID-19 pandemic, amid an ongoing global health crisis, wellness has never been as essential to our collective community as it is today,” Chris Rondeau, Planet Fitness’s CEO, said in the press release. “Gyms are part of the solution and a key element of the healthcare delivery system, providing much needed access for people to exercise and stay healthy. Given our leadership position within the industry, we believe it’s our responsibility to further protect our members, employees, and communities so that we can all safely focus on our health, which is more important now than ever before.”
As coronavirus cases continue to rise, retailers and business owners have been essentially forced to take on the responsibility of mandating masks instead of waiting for the government to do so. On July 15, right after Walmart became the first major retailer to require masks, the National Retail Federation called on retailers to implement their own mask policies.
A group of retail leaders including Thomas Donahue, the CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce, Joshua Bolten, the CEO of Business Roundtable, and Matthew Shay, the CEO of the National Retail Federation wrote a joint letter to the White House asking the federal government to take action on enforcing mask-wearing. The letter states that voluntary mask policies aren’t enough to protect public health.
“Absent stronger measures to prevent transmission, communities across America risk another round of shutdowns, broad restrictions on non-essential activities, and irreparable economic harm,” the letter reads.
Without government support, the burden of enforcing mask-wearing policies falls onto individual employees. That often means dangerous confrontations with angry customers, meaning retail employees are taking on an inordinate amount of risk. Walmart and several other retailers that have announced mask mandates have also told employees not to enforce the rules.