When Kristina Tagliente and her brother Joey opened Row Republic in Boston back in 2019, it was the culmination of years of hard work, bringing a high-intensity rowing-centric workout to the city's historic North End.
The last 18 months have been less than dream-like though. COVID-19 has meant countless hurdles--from having to temporarily close their doors to only operating at half-capacity.
Now, as the delta variant pushes a surge of new coronavirus cases across the country, this gym and others like it across the country are finding themselves at the forefront of the effort to push every American to get vaccinated.
"It's just a very unprecedented, unique situation," Tagliente said.
With cases of COVID-19 continuing to rise, this small business joined a growing list of others now requires every person who enters the studio here to be vaccinated. The requirement applies to both staff and gym members who are working out.
Cities across the country are taking similar steps. Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York and other major cities are now requiring proof of vaccination for indoor dining and gyms. Larger gym chains like Equinox and SoulCycle are also now requiring people to be vaccinated to work out.
At Row Republic, their hope is the vaccine requirement will push people who might be holding out on getting
"We've learned that we have to focus on what you can control. The last couple weeks there has been volatility,” Tagliente said. “We know what we can do to keep people safe: anyone on-premise to be fully vaccinated."
With COVID numbers continuing to rise, especially among the unvaccinated, Dr. William Schaffner--an infectious disease expert with Vanderbilt University and one of the nation's leading infectious disease experts--sees gyms requiring members to be vaccinated as a necessary next step in the fight to once again contain COVID-19.
"I think we’re now at the time where we have to start pushing people. People will have to get vaccinated if they want to participate in certain activities," Dr. Schaffner said.
As for masking up once again while working out, Dr. Schaffner says people should always consider how much heavier they breathe while exercising.
"When I go to the gym, I’m breathing much more deeply. I’m exhaling much more, and I think if you can wear that mask, it really does help protect you and the other people in the gym," he said.
At Row Republic, they continue to monitor local health department recommendations. Owner Kristina Tagliente's hope is that the new vaccine requirement called Vax100 not only keeps gym members safe but also pushes people who are holding out to get their shot.
"We just want to encourage people to get vaccinated. The higher the rate and higher velocity of people getting vaccinated, the lower the risk we’re creating for everyone," Tagliente said.