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Owner of Denver gym shut down over mask order violations talks challenges

Posted at 8:05 PM, Aug 22, 2020

DENVER— A Denver gym that helps train young and professional athletes tells Denver7 they’re facing some tough challenges after being shut down by the health department for violating the state mask order.

Joel Raether is one of the owners at Fast Performance. He demonstrated some of the high-intensity workouts they use to train athletes, which include major league players. Raether struggled to catch his breath with a mask.

“Yeah, it’s much more challenging,” he said.

He says the higher the intensity of the workout, the longer it can take to recover, adding that some athletes take off their mask to catch their breath.

The Denver Department of Public Health and Environment ticketed the gym on August 10, writing that employees were not wearing masks. On Aug. 12, the health department paid the gym a second visit and found that 9 out of 10 people were not wearing a mask — and closed the gym.

“They deemed that some of the athletes that were working out intensely – that they should have had masks on while they’re recovering,” Raether said.

Colorado’s mask order requires face coverings while working out inside a gym. According to the guidelines posted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, people can remove their mask temporarily to catch their breath or to perform an activity safely.

Raether says the guidelines are not black and white and leave room for interpretation, which can be challenging to enforce.

“Where can I be strict with the guideline, where do I need to be cognizant of the athlete’s health beyond just a mask order, so I’m not endangering them,” he said.

He adds that some athletes at the gym have health conditions.

“Like asthma, we also have an athlete with a heart condition,” Raether said. “It’s just been very challenging,”

He says there are liabilities if he’s too strict with the mask order or too lenient.

Fast Performance opened in mid-February. Raether says they were open for a few weeks. Then, like most businesses, they were forced to shut down due to the pandemic.

The gym re-opened without any trouble, but they’re facing a mask order that is proving for them to be challenging to navigate. Raether is working with the health department to meet the necessary guidelines to reopen.

“We want to ensure that we run a safe facility,” he said.