Cheryl Tombarge was so “flippin‘ excited” about gyms reopening she decided to go back the first day she could. “It’s amazing because we can only do so much at home, and so this way I can get my full workout,” Tombarge said. She missed the benefit of the machines at Curves in Lake Sumter Landing, where she would go three times a week. The Village of Pine Ridge resident was at Curves on Monday, the day gyms officially reopened. Residents have been taking advantage of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recent executive order that gyms in Florida could reopen to the public on Monday, with certain precautions to ensure everyone’s safety. Gyms and fitness centers are allowed to operate at 50% capacity, must practice social distancing and provide cleaning supplies for people to clean machines and surfaces they have used. The executive order also states restaurants, which were previously operating at 25% capacity, and libraries could begin operating at 50% capacity Monday.
Some locations have opened their doors, while others are announcing, or preparing for, their upcoming reopenings.
During the past two days, residents have been heading out to take advantage of the new opportunities.
Staff at Curves are thrilled to be back.
“We’ve missed all of our members,” said Ruth Erlinder, manager of Curves. “We know they missed us and we’re just happy to be able to serve them again.”
Barbara Hahn loves Curves and has been waiting for it to open since it closed because of COVID-19. Like Tombarge, she headed there Monday.
Hahn, of the Village of Largo, wasn’t as active at home as she was when she could go to Curves, so she is glad to be able to get back into the swing of things now.
When she heard of DeSantis’ order, she thought, “Hooray!”
Currently, only a limited amount of people are allowed inside Curves at once and social distancing is being practiced. Everyone who comes inside gets their temperature taken. Staff also are required to wear face masks. Patrons are advised to wear masks, but gloves are required.
Tombarge felt safe working out at Curves.
“Maybe the first day you’re wondering how they’re going to make it work, how are they going to keep everyone comfortable and safe, but I think they are doing a very good job,” she said.
Other fitness centers are waiting a little longer to reopen.
The Villages Recreation and Parks Department will carefully take the executive order into consideration as it explores how and when to reopen six fitness centers located within recreation centers, according to John Rohan, the department’s director.
“We’re looking forward to getting the fitness clubs reopened, we just need to do it in the safest way possible,” Rohan said. “Our residents have been the key with their cooperation in following guidelines, allowing us to slowly add more amenities.”
He called the governor’s news positive and said staff will explore the process and time line for reopening. The temporarily closed fitness centers are located at Colony Cottage, Laurel Manor, Mulberry Grove, SeaBreeze, Rohan and Fenney recreation centers.
The District and its recreation department have been providing weekly coordinated updates as part of a slow and intentional plan to bring amenities back online when it is deemed safe to do so in regards to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and health department guidelines. Rohan encouraged residents to continue to read the Recreation News and Daily Sun for updates.
The MVP Athletic Clubs in Brownwood and Spanish Springs also are waiting to restart operations.
“We felt that it was in the best interest of our members and our team to wait a little bit,” said Beth Ehinger, director of the Brownwood MVP Athletic Club.
Both locations plan to reopen in phases starting June 1.
“We are taking this time to ensure our extensive cleaning and safety protocols are in place, and that our team has been properly trained and the buildings are ready to welcome back our members,” said Alisha Meritt, director of marketing and communications for MVP Sports Clubs.
At the Brownwood location, members still will be able to take classes and use machines once the gym opens but some services such as showers and saunas, will not be available, Ehinger said.
At the Spanish Springs location, a sign was at the front door stating the fitness club’s plans on reopening.
Fran Campbell stopped by the Spanish Springs location Monday morning to see if he could get a workout in and check out how things were set up.
The Village of Calumet Grove resident has been going to the gym since it opened, doing aerobic exercises and weights about three times a week.
Campbell is excited to be able to use gym equipment again soon. Since the closures, he has been staying active by walking and doing housework.
The Mark Twain Library at Paradise Recreation Center was busy with patrons as soon as the doors opened Monday.
In the first two hours, about 30 people visited and 132 books were checked out, said Carol Olsen, chairperson of the library.
“Patrons are more than pleased to be coming back to the library,” she said. “They are happy; they are excited; they are exuberant.”
Staff are cautious and learning new procedures of how to run the library safely, but are glad to be back.
Adele Curhan was “so happy” when she heard that the libraries were reopening and that she could go back into the Mark Twain Library.
“I’ve missed it terribly,” the Village Hacienda resident said.
She usually stops by the library while on errands and was happy to be able to do that again on Monday and check out more books.
David Darling also headed to the library Monday.
“I reread every book I had in the house,” the Village of Silver Lake said.
Some libraries are partially reopened, and preparing for an expansion of services.
Leslie Smith, administrative services manager with the Sumter County Board of County Commissioners, said The Villages libraries are open and operating at a limited level.
“Right now, we’re allowing patrons only holds and pickups, and drop-offs,” she said. “People can use our online catalogue to browse, so no one has to worry about social distancing.”
Patrons may go into the Belvedere and Pinellas branches to use the computers. Every other desktop has been removed to allow 6 feet of space.
The Sumter County Library System plans to open the rest of its branches at 50% capacity with some of its services available on Thursday, Smith said.
Twelve of the 16 libraries in the Lake County Library System currently are offering curbside pickup. Six county branches are set to open June 1, with limited services and limited occupancy. Other branches plan to follow in reopening soon.
“We’re very excited to be able to open our doors and bring people in,” said George Taylor, library director for the Office of Library Services in Lake County.
Fruitland Park Library is one of the libraries in Lake County planning to open at 50% capacity on June 1.
Staff are excited to see their regulars again soon, said Jo-Ann Glendinning, library director for Fruitland Park Library.
“We’re looking forward to getting back into the routine of things,” Glendinning said.
With the executive order, restaurants are able to bring in more guests.
Business at the Flying Biscuit Cafe in Lake Sumter Landing has increased so far since operating at 50% compared to when the restaurant operated at 25%, said Patrick Cummins, store manager.
Guests have been supportive and generous since the location reopened to the public.
“The community has been pretty positive, so they’ve been very excited that we’re back open,” Cummins said.
On Tuesday, Janice McCulley, of Fruitland Park, and Matt Easley, of Lady Lake, ate out at Ay! Jalisco in Spanish Springs.
It was their first date.
They met online in the middle of the pandemic and weren’t able to go out to a restaurant because of the previous stay-at-home order.
They were both happy to see restaurants starting to go back to normal operations.
“To actually sit down with other people is awesome,” McCully said.
Ay! Jalisco began operating at 40% capacity Tuesday after previously operating at 25%. The restaurant didn’t go up to 50% because they are short on staff, said Yaritza Garcia, head manager at the restaurant.
Staff are happy to be back in business after being closed for a month, Garcia said.
Jack Suleiman, owner of Redsauce in Lake Sumter Landing and Glenview Country Club, wants to see restaurants operating at 75% capacity soon.
“We’re thrilled to have everybody come in,” Suleiman said. “We haven’t seen the regulars and some of our close friends come in as often.”
Lisa Duncan, of the Village of Dunedin, and her friend, Renie Curry, of the Village of Gilchrist, enjoyed lunch Monday at McAlister’s Deli in Brownwood.
The restaurant also is now operating at 50% capacity.
While they had both done curbside pickup for to-go meals during the stay-at-home order, they said it wasn’t the same as dining at the restaurants.
“This is the first time either of us have sat down to eat at a restaurant,” Curry said. “It was a spontaneous choice.”
The two friends were in Brownwood to get grips put on their clubs at Golf Central and decided to grab a bite to eat afterwards.
“It’s so nice getting to have that bit of normalcy coming back,” Duncan said.
Staff writer Summer Jarro can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5404, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff writer Maddie Cutler contributed to this story.