People worried about making rent are wondering: How long will the shutdown last?

“I’m shocked. It’s devastating.”

That is how Title Boxing Upper Arlington General Manager Benton Alleman recalls reacting to Gov. Mike DeWine’s order for all gyms in Ohio to shut down by the end of business on March 16. The decision was among a number of drastic measures taken by public health officials to prevent the spread of Covid-19, which has now infected at least 120 people across the state, including some in Central Ohio. 

Alleman says he understands the precautions are necessary to keep people safe and prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed by cases of the novel coronavirus. But he finds himself among those scrambling to come up with stop-gap strategies to pay rent on the gym, unsure just how long the shutdown could drag on. With new information and guidance coming from the state and federal governments on a daily and sometimes hourly basis, planning has become a futile effort.

"When we’re not open, we’re not generating revenue. There are no answers right now,” Alleman said. “Luckily, a lot of our instructors have other jobs, but we can’t compensate if we’re not open.” 

One of Title Boxing’s trainers, Jamie Walker, said he felt “sick to his stomach” when he found out the gym had to close. Trainers are paid based on the individual classes they teach and, for Walker, it’s about more than just missing out on paychecks. 

“Not being able to do what you love is really tough. Of course I love getting paid but, as a trainer, I’m dedicated to making people better,” Walker said. “This is a place to come and work through their stress. We now just have to stay positive and hopefully everything will work out.”

Information is critical. Read our latest reporting on the coronavirus response here.

The closure also impacts Walker’s professional boxing career.  

“I was supposed to have a big fight this summer for a belt that could have put me in the No. 15 spot in the world,” he said. “But since other fights are getting canceled, the rest of the schedule gets delayed. And I can’t even get into the gym to train for the fight now anyway.” 

National chains were left with more questions than answers in the hours following DeWine’s order. The Grandview branch of LA Fitness notified members through its app that the gym would be closed for “repairs” until April 1. It later provided an update to say the closure was due to a national emergency.

OhioHealth’s McConnell Heart Health Center, which runs clinical programs for cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation in addition to serving as a membership-based workout facility for the public, has been forced to shut down non-essential operations. Health care professionals are taking steps to provide instruction and care remotely. Instructors are planning to provide guidance on home workouts, Senior Director Michael F. Hyek said.

Stay up to date with the region’s business scene. Subscribe to Columbus CEO’s weekly newsletter.

“It is our priority to help our participants maintain all the progress they have made in their programs,” Hyek said. “We have also encouraged participants to stay engaged with each other during this difficult time through social platforms. Many of those in our clinical programs are the ‘at risk populations.’ We want to make every effort to ensure we are helping them feel supported and not isolated during this difficult time.”

Hyek is advising the public to be mindful of both physical well-being and mental health. 

"This crisis is causing an elevated stress level, both at home and at work,” Hyek said. “Managing your stress level through mindfulness, meditation or other techniques can be critically important.”

The McConnell Health Heart Center is planning to shift employees whose jobs have been impacted to OhioHealth departments that are experiencing increased needs due to the coronavirus. 

Erin Laviola is a freelance writer for Columbus CEO.