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'It's huge': North Idaho gyms, salons prepare to open this weekend

One gym owner explains how he's preparing to reopen during Stage 2 of Idaho's coronavirus reopening plan.

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — After being closed for several weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic, North Idaho gyms, salons, and restaurant dining rooms are slated to reopen on Saturday.

"It's huge," said Gary Retter, owner of Peak Health and Wellness, of their plans to welcome members back this weekend. 

The gym has three locations across Kootenai County.

"It's excitement, it's hesitation. It's nervousness," Retter said of the preparations.

On Thursday, Idaho governor Brad Little signed an updated "Stay Healthy" order, moving Idaho into the second of four stages in the state's plan to reopen its economy.

RELATED: Idaho coronavirus latest: 29 new confirmed cases, three more deaths reported; Gov. Little says Idaho set for stage 2 of reopening

Notably in stage two of the Idaho Rebounds plan, gyms, recreational facilities, salons, and barber shops can reopen with social distancing measures in place. Restaurants can open dining rooms, but with occupancy limited to 50% of seating capacity.

Under state guidelines, gyms are required to make plans to address social distancing, hygiene, and sanitizing equipment. According to language on the state's website, gyms aren't required to have their plans approved, but should make them available to patrons.

At Peak, however, Retter said the fitness center's reopening plan was approved by the Panhandle Health District.

"Every piece of equipment is at least six feet away from each other," explained Retter of social distancing measures.

Images provided by Peak staff showed some exercise machines with signage or caution tape wrapped around them in an effort to ensure members kept their distance while working out. Additionally, Retter says staff were directed to place floor markings in fitness classrooms to guide guests where to stand and practice social distancing.

Limiting capacity at Peak's locations wouldn't be an issue, Retter said, since the fitness centers benefit from having large facilities in the first place.

While exercise machines will be available, Peak's showers, steamrooms and saunas, and hot tubs will be closed because social distancing measures can't be implemented there.

"Our lounges are empty. We're not selling shakes," said Retter. "Our drinking fountains are closed down."

Under state guidelines, gyms can operate indoor pools with safety stipulations in place.

Retter said each facility will also have a designated staff member who will monitor guests using exercise equipment to ensure social distancing and that equipment is cleaned after each use. "We will be watching every room," he said.

Peak's three locations were closed for two months due to COVID-19. During that time, Retter said the gym didn't bill members.

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