LAKE RONKONKOMA, NY (OnSachem.com / OnTownMedia.com) — Get ready to hit the gym again as soon as next Monday. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced today that the county will support the reopening of gyms and fitness centers over the next two weeks.
On Monday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced gyms and fitness centers can reopen starting Monday, Aug. 24—as long as the county executives approved so for their jurisdictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today, Bellone gave the green light for Suffolk County. However, it will be a phased-in process beginning with the larger, commercial gyms, while workplace, hotel and other smaller gyms will have to wait an additional week.
“With our infection rate holding steady at or below 1 percent and a robust testing system in place, we are confident we can reopen gyms in a way that is both safe and responsible,” Bellone said. “I want to remind our residents and gym owners that we are still in the midst of a pandemic. The tides may shift in this battle at any minute and we must do everything we can to prevent a second wave. So be smart, wear a mask, and follow all safety protocols.”
In order to reopen, New York State requires gyms to implement new health and safety standards, including limiting capacity to 33%, installing special HVAC filters, and requiring every gym goer to wear a mask—including during their workout.
Newly opened, then forced to close: Planet Fitness in Lake Ronkonkoma is ready to reopen
This is long-anticipated news for local gyms, including the brand-new Planet Fitness at 585 Portion Road in Lake Ronkonkoma. The gym celebrated its grand opening on Feb. 11, only to be forced to close five weeks later on March 16, which is when Cuomo shut down every gym in the state to help prevent COVID-19 spread.
“We look forward to working with our franchisees to safely reopen our locations in New York under Governor Cuomo’s guidelines, in order to provide New Yorkers with much-needed access to high quality, affordable health and fitness,” Planet Fitness spokesperson Becky Zirlen told OnSachem on Monday.
Suffolk County’s plan: Commercial gyms reopen first
Bellone said Suffolk County will have a staggered reopening schedule, beginning with commercial gyms and indoor classes on Aug. 24. Commercial gyms and fitness centers are those that generate revenue, such as Planet Fitness, LA Fitness, Retro Fitness, and others that require a membership fee, according to Bellone. Hotel, office, higher education, and residential gyms—such as those in townhouse and apartment complexes—will be allowed to reopen a week later on Aug 31.
The county will host a virtual meeting with gym and fitness center owners on Thursday, Aug. 20, to review guidance, provide clarifications, and answer questions to ensure each business is able to reopen safely. Those interested in participating should register with the county using this link.
Suffolk County health inspectors will visit all gyms
Gyms may continue to operate as long as they pass their inspections, according to county officials. Inspections must be completed within a two-week time span of the facility opening, Cuomo said on Monday.
According to Bellone, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services will begin inspections on Aug. 24 for commercial and traditional gyms.
The county will launch an online database of all gyms and fitness centers, Bellone said. Prior to the inspection, gym owners and managers must complete the affirmation for each facility location, which can be found on the NY Forward website, that they have reviewed and understood the New York State guidelines and will implement these protocols. Once an attestation form is submitted, Suffolk County will begin scheduling inspections. Each facility will receive an automated email with a scheduled date and timeframe for the inspection, along with other critical information.
Safety plans for each gym
Gym owners must develop a written safety plan to protect employees and gym members from COVID-19. Businesses must have this plan available for review and also conspicuously posted at each location.
Facilities will be required to close communal showers, whirlpools, saunas, steam rooms, water fountains, and self-serve bars and samplers, according to the government mandates.
While fitness classes will be allowed, everyone must have six feet of social distance in all directions, class sizes will be limited to 33% capacity, and no more than 50 people are allowed.
Additional requirements include sanitizing stations, acceptable face coverings that do not include bandanas, buffs, and gaiters, and the limitation of physical contact activities such as boxing and martial arts. In addition, at each inspection, businesses will receive a gallon of NYS Clean hand sanitizer.
Gym owners can call Suffolk 311 or visit the Suffolk County Suffolk County Business Recovery Unit website to answer questions or learn the latest updates.
— to www.ontownmedia.com