Erika H

The new normal at Galter LifeCenter

by Erika Slife Hostetler | Mar 04, 2022

A new normal has settled over Galter LifeCenter this week as masks became optional for members once the state lifted its mask mandate on Monday. Away went the temperature checks at the door as well.

“It was amazing to see the faces of the people I attend class with on a daily basis,” said member Ellen Smith Avila who went unmasked on Monday. “The smiles on those faces reminds me of why Galter is such an amazing health center and community.”

Indeed, the smiles – and noses and chins – of many were visible this week as the unmasked mingled with the masked in the gym’s new normal.

Steam rooms are scheduled to open March 1, and whirlpools, sauna and steam rooms will not have reduced capacity limits.

But some members just aren’t ready yet to let go of the Covid-19 safety precaution.

“Maybe it’s because I’m a creature of habit, but I’m not quite ready to remove the masks while I’m at the gym or indoors anywhere yet,” said member Jessica Sedgwick.

And not all of Galter’s Covid-19 mitigation strategies have gone away. Class registrations and pool lane reservations are still required and are here to stay. Capacity limits in the studios and the pools remain in effect, and vaccines are still required to enter the gym at this time.

“While the city of Chicago has ended the mask and vaccine mandate, we are continuing with the vaccine requirement,” said Francie Habash, the gym’s fitness director. “As a medical fitness center that also provides patient services, we feel it is prudent to take this conservative approach to ensure patient, member and staff safety. This policy will be subject to ongoing evaluation by the Swedish Hospital Covid Committee.”

For Smith Avila, the vaccine requirement offers the gym an extra level of safety.

“I felt completely safe knowing that everybody there is fully vaccinated and the facility itself is so clean and well kept,” she said. “I had no reservation about removing my mask. There are still some members that choose to wear their mask, and the flexibility and the ability to choose what works best for each member (is) amazing.”

Members will still see Galter employees wearing masks, as well as patients and staff in the outpatient services, such as cardiac rehab and physical therapy. Clients in the Integrative Therapy rooms will also be required to wear masks while receiving services.

“We are pleased to be able to offer members a choice right now regarding masks,” Habash said. “Each person needs to make that personal decision for their health and safety as well as for their family and loved ones. We cannot know everyone’s reasons for why they do or do not wear a mask, but we must respect their choice. Our hope is that this is a safe place to workout, and we will continue to follow Swedish Hospital’s leadership along with the science to keep our staff and community safe.”

As the gym eases into the next chapter of the ongoing pandemic with the rest of the city, there is hope that the new normal becomes, well, just normal.

“I’m cautiously optimistic about returning to mask optional at Galter,” said member Suzanne Dressel. “I’ve decided to wait to take off my mask since I have travel plans this weekend, but (I) look forward to taking classes without it in the future. It will be so nice to see smiling faces again. I think the new norm will be masking up when we feel a cold coming on or have a need to use extra caution, which can be a newfound super power.”

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"The program I love the most is Personal Training. It has made a big difference-wish I hadn't waited so long!" - Ellen