ITHACA, N.Y.—Island Health & Fitness became the latest local business to introduce a COVID-19 vaccination requirement, and the first local gym to do so, as the idea of vaccination requirements begins to extend beyond bars (and one local bookstore, Odyssey).

While personal fitness locations were not a major vector of infection during the earlier parts of the pandemic, the Delta variant’s prevalence and contagiousness has made contracting the virus increasingly likely even when fully vaccinated.

“To continue our focus on safety within our facilities, we are requiring all of our members and staff to be vaccinated for COVID-19,” said Steve Brandt, the general manager of Island Health & Fitness. “In addition, we recently transformed our facilities with upgrades focused on health and safety. Improvements include new, easily sanitized rubber flooring, fresh air ventilation and filtering, extra cleaning crews and staff.”

Members are also encouraged to wear masks while they are working out, Brandt said.

Their announcement, in an email to all members late last week, came on the heels of State Theatre’s own announcement, becoming arguably the most prominent local institution to require vaccines. Certain bars around Ithaca and Collegetown had already started their own vaccination requirements before college students returned to the area, which has brought with it a flood of new infections—albeit, very few or none of which are symptomatic, according to Cornell University and local health officials.

“For the safety of our artists, staff, volunteers, and this community, we will be requiring proof of vaccination for admittance to all shows at the State Theatre of Ithaca until further notice,” stated the State Theatre’s announcement, which became the first non-bar to independently require vaccines in Ithaca. “Results from a negative COVID test will not be accepted for entry for individuals over the age of 12.”

Vaccination mandates for businesses have been fairly slow, though they are spreading. Even in the government sector, Tompkins County has made employees either prove they are vaccinated or submit to a testing regimen—an alternative to a full vaccine mandate. A similar edict was handed down from the New York State Department of Education for teachers in K-12 schools last week.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com