At long last, fitness centers and gyms in New York have been given the green light to reopen — with many restrictions — starting Monday, Aug. 24.
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In his briefing Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo released his guidelines for reopening the businesses after more than five months. All gyms and fitness establishments were closed by the state on March 16 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The news about gyms comes as bowling lanes around the state reopened Monday.
Fitness centers and gyms can reopen as soon as Aug. 24, but at only 33 percent capacity. Face masks must be worn at all times inside the facilities, even on a treadmill or other exercise machine, and social distancing must be maintained.
“Gyms are one of the places where you have to be very careful,” the governor said. “Health officials came up with specifications.
“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,” Cuomo said. “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.”
As for the long delay — gyms were originally included in the Phase 4 reopening plan, but kept closed two more months — Cuomo said,” There is a an area of concern there. We went slow on this.”
Earlier in the month, he said gyms were still unsafe and would remain closed indefinitely.
According to Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, the state is recommending temperature screenings for staff and clients, the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems upgraded with the same MERV-13 filtration systems or greater that malls and movie theaters would be required to have, as well as sign-ins for members so that any positive cases can be contract-traced back.
Under the guidelines, equipment must be cleaned and disinfected between customer use. Water bottle refill stations are permitted, but not shared water fountains. Communal showers are closed, but individual showers/stalls are allowed, as long as they are cleaned between use.
Some of the area gyms affected were MAC Fitness in the Kingston Plaza, Planet Fitness in the town of Ulster and IXL Health and Fitness in Saugerties and Rhinebeck, plus the YMCA of Kingston and Ulster County.
Holly Snow, owner of MAC Fitness, will be gathering her staff and getting everything in place in the next couple of days for Ulster County’s biggest fitness center.
“I’ve had the signage for forever. All I got to do it placement,” said Snow, who is also a member of the New York State Fitness Alliance, which had been advocating its own plan for safely reopening to Cuomo.
“I believe it is what we all expected,” she said. “The masks are definitely going to be a tough thing for the members. I’m already getting a ton of emails on that and there is not a lot that I can do as an owner/operator. My hands are tied by the guidance.”
Planet Fitness Senior Public Relations Manager Becky Zirlen said in a statement, “At Planet Fitness, we see ourselves as an integral part of the healthcare delivery system and part of the solution to combating COVID-19.
“Fitness plays an important role in positively impacting our mental and physical well-being, in addition to fighting COVID-19 risk factors such as obesity, heart disease, lung disease and diabetes,” she added. “We look forward to working with our franchisees to safely reopen our locations in New York under Governor Cuomo’s guidelines.”
The governor put the onus on local health departments. They must inspect gyms to ensure rules are being adhered to, either before they open or within two weeks of opening, by Sept. 2. Localities will also determine if the facilities can have indoor classes.
Cuomo announced that the state has one of the lowest infection rates in the country since the pandemic started. It has averaged under 1 percent for 10 consecutive days.
By the numbers
Ulster County has had 2,099 confirmed cases of COVID-10 since the outbreak began in March. According to the online dashboard, there are 98 active cases, 1,908 recovered patients and 93 deaths.
Dutchess County has 4,686 confirmed cases since the outbreak. The county online dashboard says 4,259 patients have recovered, 153 have died and that there are 274 active cases.
Sullivan County has 1,458 confirmed cases with 50 deaths. The county’s online dashboard says that there are only two active cases.
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