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Fitness Centers, Museums and Bowling Alleys May Reopen

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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo released guidance Monday allowing gyms and fitness centers to reopen. The guidance applies to fitness activities and facilities, including, but not limited to, standalone, hotel, residential, and office gyms and fitness centers, gyms and fitness centers in higher education institutions, yoga/Pilates/barre studios, boxing/kickboxing gyms, fitness boot camps, CrossFit or other plyometric box classes, and other group fitness classes. The guidance documents can be accessed at the NY Forward website under phase four industries.

“Our local gyms and fitness facilities are now part of the NYS Phase 4 reopening process and can reopen within the posted guidelines, including for indoor classes. The reopening of these spaces was delayed as COVID-19 has progressed, and we appreciate the patience and adherence to the guidance by gym operators,” said Tompkins COunty Public Health Director Frank Kruppa. “Exercise is so important for everyone’s health and mental well-being during this challenging time. We ask that operators and the public be patient as Environmental Health conducts required inspections and as gyms put in place the necessary precautions to limit exposure and prevent the spread of the virus.”

A week ago Cuomo announced bowling alleys throughout New York will be allowed to reopen starting Monday with strict safety protocols in place. Bowling alleys will be able to operate at a 50 percent maximum occupancy limit; face coverings and social distancing will be required at all times; every other lane must be closed; patrons need to stay with the party at their assigned lane; thorough cleaning and disinfection of shared or rented equipment between each use will be required; and all food service must follow all state-issued guidance. Due to restrictions on indoor dining, food and beverage service will not be allowed in New York City bowling alleys.

Cuomo also announced that New York City museums and other low-risk cultural institutions can reopen starting Monday, August 24. The institutions include museums, aquariums, and other low-risk indoor cultural arts. All institutions that reopen will be subject to state guidance. These institutions must obey strict safety protocols, including a 25 percent maximum occupancy limit, timed ticketing required with pre-set, staggered entry, strict enforcement of face coverings, social distancing, controlled traffic flow to avoid crowding, and enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols.

“New York City’s world-class cultural institutions have long provided comfort and creativity for generations of people in one of the world’s most vibrant places, and when the COVID-19 pandemic began to threaten the city and this nation, it was especially heartbreaking to see them close their doors,” Cuomo said. “This pandemic is far from over, but we’ve determined that institutions can reopen if they adhere to strict state guidance and take every precaution to keep visitors safe, and I look forward to seeing them inspire New Yorkers once again. I’m also happy to report that we will be able to open bowling alleys across the state with strict safety protocols in place, providing a level of fun and recreation at a time when New Yorkers really need it.”

Localities can also determine whether gyms postpone resumption of indoor classes. In New York City, the Mayor and, throughout the rest of the state, the county’s chief executive may decide to opt-out of indoor group fitness and aquatic classes within their jurisdiction, postponing their resumption until a later date. Local health departments must inspect gyms prior to reopening, or within two weeks of reopening, to ensure strict adherence to Department of Health guidance.

“As New York maintains daily positive test rates below 1 percent, the State has determined that local elected officials can allow gyms and fitness centers to reopen at 33 percent capacity while following rigorous safety protocols, including wearing masks at all times,” Cuomo said on Monday. “While it’s encouraging that we’ve reached the point where it’s acceptable for them to begin reopening in our communities, this is not the time to forget that the pandemic is ongoing. New Yorkers must closely adhere to the guidelines and local health departments are required to strictly enforce them to help ensure gyms and fitness centers reopen safely and protect the public health.”

Gyms and fitness centers can reopen in Tompkins County starting August 24th, 2020, if they meet the following requirements:

  1. Read the guidance and prepare a safety plan using the NYS Safety Plan Template.
  2. The Safety Plan must include the required certification of the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system by a professional as identified in the guidance. Please include details of your facility’s air handling system(s) or air handling plans in the in the “other” section of the reopening safety plan. If the facility does not have an HVAC system or one under their control, the facility will need to submit that information and a description of the ventilation procedures they are taking in accordance with the guidance.
  3. Submit your Safety Plan including HVAC certification to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
  4. Submit your affirmation to NYS through the link at the end of the gym guidance document.

Please refer to the detailed guidance for more information as well as these requirements that are specific to gyms and fitness facilities:

  • Capacity: 33% occupancy limit.
  • PPE: There are special requirements for face coverings at gyms and fitness centers.
  • Classes: By appointment/reservation only; maximum class capacity limited by the 6-feet social distancing rules, but in no case more than 33% of the typical class size; cleaning and disinfection required between each session.
  • Air Handling Systems: Gyms should operate with MERV-13 or greater filtration. If they are unable to operate at that level, they must have a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) professional document their inability to do so and adopt additional ventilation and mitigation protocols. Documentation from a HVAC professional is required for all facilities with HVAC systems.

After the Tompkins County Health Department (TCHD) has received your plan and HVAC certification, the TCHD will be will contacting you to schedule an inspection or request additional information.

Tompkins County Public Health Director Frank Kruppa is additionally giving approval that gyms can host indoor classes within the state guidelines.

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