Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday morning that his administration will release guidelines for the reopening of health and fitness centers on Monday that will presumably allow the facilities to soon resume operations on a reduced scale.
It is unclear how much sooner after guidelines are released that individual clubs may be able to reopen.
Also on Friday, the governor said bowling alleys may reopen as early as Monday and low-risk cultural activities in New York City, such as museums and aquariums, can start operating on Aug. 24.
Bill Beck, president of Club Fit in Briarcliff Manor and Jefferson Valley, said he was “thrilled” with today’s announcement. On Thursday, Beck joined Saw Mill Club President Rick Beusman and operators from other area fitness centers for a press conference in Mount Kisco, calling on the state to evaluate stringent plans that would reduce attendance and equipment and require face coverings at all times for members and employees along with enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols.
“I’m hopeful that we’ve addressed the vast majority of his concerns in our reopening plan, which was given to him through the New York State Fitness Alliance,” Beck said on Friday. “I’m expecting he will have capacity guidance, which would be in line with how he’s addressing other industries.”
He and other operators had anticipated that they would be able to reopen with the start of Phase 4 in the Mid-Hudson region on July 7. But Cuomo, citing virus transmission rates in other parts of the United States linked to the operation of gyms, has kept them shuttered since they were closed in March.
In anticipation of a reopening coinciding with Phase 4, Beck said that Club Fit has already moved equipment to allow for social distancing; established cleaning protocols and has trained staff; has screening protocols for entering the premises; changed all air filters to the preferred MERV filters; introduced a new air-filtration system that kills bacteria and viruses; and installed new filters into group exercise rooms.
While other operators across New York launched litigation against the state when prohibited to reopen for Phase 4, Saw Mill Club and Club Fit were among those clubs that joined the newly-formed New York State Fitness Alliance to convince Cuomo and state health officials that protocols could be developed to ensure safety.
“The New York State Fitness Alliance thanks Gov. Cuomo for his continued leadership in reopening the economy in an intelligent way,” Bill Lia, chair of the Alliance said in a statement. “The fitness industry is ready to reopen safely, with proper protocols in place to protect our employees and members. We look forward to providing New Yorkers access to safe fitness facilities so they can advance their physical and mental health.”
On Thursday, the gym operators, local elected officials and a couple of Saw Mill Club members appealed to the governor to reconsider his decision, arguing that the closures were contributing to poor health in other ways.
COVID-19 transmission rates continue to fall across New York State. Throughout much of the last week, infection rates, including on Thursday, have been less than 1 percent in all 10 regions. Statewide, 727 infections were recorded Thursday out of 85,455 tests administered. It was the third consecutive day where at least 85,000 tests were recorded.
Regarding the re-opening of bowling alleys, those will be allowed to operate at up to 50 percent capacity as long as everyone is wearing face coverings, adjoining lanes will not be used simultaneously and that any food service is by waiter only.
Bowling alley operators will also need to establish protocols detailing cleaning and disinfection, particularly for rented and shared equipment such as shoes and bowling balls.
Museums will be able to reopen in New York City Aug. 24 but must limit maximum capacity to less than 25 percent, require ticketed entrance, have staggered entry times and control traffic flows.