Madison County, N.Y. — Gym goers have finally received word that their favorite fitness centers are allowed to reopen.
The governor placed the reopening into the hands of the local county health departments to oversee, and the Madison County Health Department (MCHD) wants owners to know what the guidelines are and how to reach out for an inspection.
Madison County Board Chairman John Becker also announced that he is granting approval so that gyms can host indoor classes within the state guidelines and as long as they are able to open per the MCHD.
“Our local gyms have waited patiently for the day they could reopen their doors, that time has finally come,” Becker stated. “I have confidence that gym owners, as well as clients, will work hard to keep everyone safe. They will adhere to cleaning protocols, as well as wear face masks. That is why I am authorizing gyms to also host indoor classes.”
Cazenovia Community Fitness Center (CCFC) Co-owner Marla Velky-Reger says her establishment is committed to getting things safely moving again under the new guidelines.
There are no hard feelings on her end; she said she understands why gyms were shutdown. For the time being, CCFC has been making due by offering around 25 virtual classes to clients who rely on them, and outdoor classes have also been added to the mix once it was permissible.
Her business quickly switched gears to the online model on March 17, the day after shutdowns began. And now, over six months later, CCFC has invested thousands to provide their quality fitness under these new conditions.
“We’re committed to doing it right. We know that people miss the gym and miss that outlet. And we miss seeing people,” Velky-Reger said.
“We’re looking forward to opening our doors in a cautious, health-conscious way.”
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 4 industries or on the Madison County website.
Gyms and fitness centers can reopen in Madison County starting August 24, 2020, if the following requirements are met:
1. The establishment has read the guidance and prepared 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. Details of the facility’s air handling system(s) or air handling plans should be listed. If the facility does not have an HVAC system or one under operator control, the owner will need to submit that information and a description of the ventilation procedures being taken in accordance with the state guidance.
3. The establishment has submitted the safety plan and HVAC certification to Madison County.
4. The establishment has reviewed the gym guidance document and submitted an affirmation to NYS through the website.
Points of interest from the guidance include keeping capacity at 33% occupancy limits and enforcing face coverings at all times. Classes must be by appointment/reservation only, and maximum class capacity will be limited by the 6-feet social distancing rules, but in no case should the class size be more than 33% of what’s typical. Cleaning and disinfection are required between each session.
Ventilation is also a key part of the reopening guidance. Gyms and fitness centers should operate with MERV-13 or greater filtration, according to county officials. If a facility is unable to operate at that level, it must have a 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 MCHD has received an establishment’s plan and HVAC certification, the MCHD will contact them to schedule an inspection or request additional information.
“Exercise is important to everyone’s health and mental well-being. We have been facing very challenging times, and getting people back to being able to do physical activities, especially as the cold weather approaches, is a great milestone for our community,” Becker said.
Velky-Reger shared that virtual work-out options will remain available to her clients as the center looks forward to reopening.
“Some people have verbalized to us that they don’t feel ready, and so we’ll continue to maintain that virtual option for people to honor where they’re at.”
Many have stuck by the fitness center’s side even though the circumstances have been less than ideal, and for that, CCFC is thankful. “Bills don’t go away when you shut your doors,” she commented.
The value of a local fitness center isn’t just about accessible activity, it’s about forming connections and fostering a healthy lifestyle. Many are excited to get back in the studio and feel at home in their sneakers and gym shorts — and don’t forget their masks.