Just after 10 p.m. on Tuesday, Planet Fitness members in Pine Bluff received an email alerting them of the gym's closure for two weeks.

Just after 10 p.m. on Tuesday, Planet Fitness members in Pine Bluff received an email alerting them of the gym’s closure for two weeks. The news comes on the heels of other gyms and fitness chains like 24 Hour Fitness and Gold’s Gym making the decision to shutter their doors to prevent the spread of COVID-19--- a respiratory illness that spreads from person to person per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation and its impact on our members, team members and communities is unprecedented and changing rapidly,” said Planet Fitness CEO Chris Rondeau. “The health and well-being of our Planet Fitness Family is and has always been, our #1 priority.”

Beginning March 17 at 10 p.m. through March 31, the gym will be temporarily closed for business. Rondeau said although it was a “difficult decision” to make, he believed it to be the “right one.” In the email, he also addressed monthly dues for members.

“We recognize that you were recently billed your monthly dues and we will credit your payment for our closed days on your next monthly bill upon reopening,” he said.

Despite not being open, Planet Fitness will provide members with options to stay in shape from the comfort of their homes. On the gym’s Facebook page, people will be able to participate in “Home Work-Ins,” which is a free fitness class to be streamed live Monday through Friday. The daily sessions will start at 7 p.m. E.T. and no equipment is necessary for the 20 minutes or less classes.

“Physical and mental health is extremely important especially during stressful and uncertain times,” Rondeau said. “While we will miss seeing you in the club for the time-being, we are still here to motivate you and support you along your fitness journey. We encourage you to download the Planet Fitness app, which includes access to fitness content and more than 500 exercises that can be done at home.”

Robert Clayborn, Jr., of Pine Bluff and one of hundreds of regular clients, will have to resort to other workout options since Planet Fitness has for now, closed.

“To be honest, I'm upset,” Clayborn said. “One of our few escapes from real life and stress is the gym. Now, because of all the fear out here [they] close it down. So, now, it's going to be harder on those who do try to stay in shape.”

Clayborn, who frequents the gym multiple times during the week, described the gym as a clean space well before concerns of the coronavirus arose. Outside of Planet Fitness, Jefferson Regional Medical Center’s Wellness Center in Pine Bluff and White Hall provide the only local gyms. On March 13 just a couple days after the first presumptive positive case was reported in the state, the center announced the decision to close its facility until March 29.

“I could understand if they weren't taking precautions in keeping things sanitized, but that's not the case,” he said. “Planet Fitness employee's are always cleaning and sanitizing everything. Plus, there is hand sanitizer readily available to everyone for use. Now, I'm going to have to work out at home, which is not as effective or as much fun.”

During Wednesday’s press conference, Gov. Asa Hutchinson confirmed cases of COVID-19 were up to 33 in the state. The most recent counties to report new cases include Washington, Bradley, and Faulkner.

“Most of these are travel-related or apart of the original exposure that happened previously and these are just an extension of those known clusters that we have in the case,” said Hutchinson.

According to the Arkansas Department of Health’s website, 50 people continue to be under investigation for the virus and 377 are being monitored by ADH through daily check-ins. Across the United States, the death toll has surpassed 100 people based on information provided by the CDC along with state and local health officials. Additionally, there remain more than 7,000 cases with at least one in every state.

“We have one case related to travel to France, two cases related to travel to India and then eight cases now related to domestic travel and that includes multiple connections to Colorado, one to Springfield, MO., [and] I believe there’s one in Las Vegas and New Orleans.” Hutchinson said. “So, those are some of the geographical areas that individuals from Arkansas have traveled to and brought back and tested positive. The message again before Spring Break next week [is] everyone needs to rethink the risk of travel and what happens when you go and you meet with people that you don’t know…”