Raleigh, N.C. — Since Raleigh officials put a local mask mandate back into effect last month, city staff have visited about 30 businesses to check on compliance after receiving complaints. No citations have been issued to date.
WRAL Investigates checked out some local gyms, including Crunch Fitness in the Village District, after receiving complaints about mask non-compliance.
Only two people other than a WRAL producer and the Crunch employee providing a tour were seen wearing masks inside the Raleigh gym. Everyone else was working out without the required face covering.
“The sign’s up everywhere, but no one’s following it. It’s sad, but it’s the state of things,” health care professional Joshua Smalls said as he went to workout.
Smalls, who had his mask on even before going inside, said he feels wearing a mask is the right thing to do.
“I think they’re definitely a benefit. I trust the CDC’s guidance,” he said. “It’s not a trial for me to wear a mask. I don’t think it’s hard.”
Crunch Fitness corporate officials didn’t respond to WRAL’s requests for comment.
WRAL Investigates also checked CrossFit Brave in Cary. While the gym’s back doors were open to help with air circulation, people there also were working out without masks.
A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association supports the notion that gyms are hot spots for coronavirus transmission.
In a Chicago gym, 68 percent of participants in a high-intensity class became infected when masks were optional. In Honolulu, a spinning class instructor and 10 participants all tested positive for the virus after the instructor taught a class just hours before showing symptoms. Closer to home, Find a Way Fitness, in Raleigh, experienced its own outbreak in December.
A Facebook poster questioned Crunch Fitness managers about their mask policy after hearing the gym wasn’t enforcing the local mandate. They replied by saying the policy is enforced, except for people with medical exemptions, which is allowed under Raleigh’s ordinance.
“I am vaccinated, and I still wear a mask when I have to,” Hannah Willard said as she peeled off her mask after leaving Crunch Fitness. “People feel a little more rebellious now that people are vaccinated and other people aren’t wearing masks, so it’s easy to get away with not wearing one.”
Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin said she thinks mask fatigue is partly to blame for non-compliance.
“Everybody is tired of wearing this,” said Baldwin, who approved the city’s new mask rules amid a surge in infections fueled by the virus’ delta variant.
The city’s enforcement strategy isn’t about citations, she said, noting, “We are enforcing by education.”
In a room full of people sweating and breathing heavily, Smalls said, he feels the risk for infection is too high for gyms not to enforce mask rules, and he wishes other people would get the message.
“To me, it’s a health care issue. I’m neutral as far as politics go,” he said. “I’d just like to see people care for one another.”
Baldwin said she hopes businesses do the right thing and enforce the rules to protect other patrons.
“It’s up to them to say, ‘Hey, these are the rules. I’m going to have to ask you to leave if you can’t comply,'” she said.