Members adjusting to COVID protocols
By Rebecca Spiess
It’s Wednesday at 2 p.m., and the Winthrop Physical Therapy & Fitness gym is almost empty.
This would be unusual before COVID, but since re-opening on Aug. 10, things have been bumpy for the valley enterprise.
“Having people come in and reserve their zones has been difficult,” said Brett Kokes, the bookkeeper and co-owner. “They’re not used to having to reserve a spot.”
Kokes took over the business in 2014 with his wife, Jenna, a Methow Valley native and a doctor of physical therapy.
In accordance with COVID-19 regulations, staff have divided the gym into five zones, each with 300 square feet of space. All zones (except for an outdoor space focused on strength training) contain both cardio and weight training equipment.
Members can book each zone for up to an hour, one week in advance, either online or through a new app. Another full hour in between sessions ensures staff have time to air out and sanitize the space between guests.
Hand washing, temperature taking and masks are also mandatory after entering the building. Locker rooms remain closed.
About half of gym members have frozen their accounts, while the other half continue to support the gym. A few individuals have also asked for refunds, which the business supplied. Kokes expects the facility to stay in the red through the end of the year, although scheduling has slowly improved.
“Our busiest times pre-COVID were mornings and evenings,” he said. “Those slots have filled up a lot more. But there’s still a lot of dead space in the middle of the day.”
Kokes said the previous owners, Janice and Pete Dickinson, are also a solid support system for the business.
“Summer’s always been kind of our slow period,” Kokes explained. “So it’s hard to tell: are people just outdoor-active? Are they worried about coming in because of COVID? Are the zones and having to reserve them too cumbersome to have to figure out?”
PT doing better
While the gym has struggled, the physical therapy wing of the business has largely recovered.
“I’d say it’s back to like 70 percent to normal,” Kokes said. All patients and therapists wear masks and appointments are scheduled with 15 minutes between them for proper sanitization.
Alexander Holund, a physical therapy patient, said he’s been impressed by the extensive safety measures in place. He injured his leg in a skydiving accident years ago. He loves what he called the “pragmatic” approach towards his treatment.
“[My therapist] knows I won’t roll on a ball four hours a day to treat myself,” he said. “So he gave me a quarter-inch insole in one of my shoes to correct my steps.”
The Payroll Protection Program through the federal CARES Act has also been utilized by both businesses.
“People are happy that we’re here,” Kokes said. “It’s just a different world right now.”