On Wednesday, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone outlined the county’s plan to reopen commercial fitness facilities, details that Governor Andrew Cuomo left up to localities to implement.
Cuomo announced Monday that gyms could reopen as of August 24 with 33% capacity and as long as they had the proper air ventilation and filtration systems in place. He also said the county health departments would have to inspect the facilities to ensure compliance.
Bellone said the county will go by a staggered reopening schedule, allowing commercial gyms and indoor classes to reopen first, starting on Monday, August 24. Hotel, office, higher education and residential gyms will be allowed to reopen beginning August 31. Gyms have been closed since mid-March and are among the last industries allowed to reopen under New York Forward due to the higher risk of spreading the virus in the workout facilities.
Several gym owners IndyEastEnd.com spoke to said they were confused by the reopening process after Cuomo’s announcement. As it turns out, county officials are preparing for a virtual meeting with gym and fitness center owners on Thursday, August 20, to review guidance. Those interested in participating should register here.
“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 in a statement. “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.”
Commercial gyms and fitness centers that generate revenue, such as Hampton Gym Corp. on the South Fork and Planet Fitness in Riverhead and Hampton Bays, and those that require a membership fee, will be allowed to reopen on August 24, and may continue to operate as long as they pass their inspections, according to Bellone. New York State, said inspections must be completed within a two-week time span of the facility opening.
The Suffolk County Department of Health Services will begin inspections on Monday, August 24 for such commercial gyms. The Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning will work in conjunction with the Suffolk County Department of Labor, Licensing and Consumer Affairs and the Suffolk County Department of Health Services to launch an online database of all gyms and fitness centers located within the county, Bellone added.
Before an inspection, gym owners and managers will have to complete an affirmation form for each facility location, which can be found on the New York Forward website. The form acknowledges that the facility will abide by the New York State COVID-19 protocols. Once the form is submitted, county officials will scheduled inspections. An email with a scheduled date and timeframe for the inspection will follow, along with other critical information, the county executive statement said.
Gym owners must have a written safety plan in place detailing the measures the business will take to protect employees and members. They will have to post the plan “conspicuously” at each location so it is available to review.
Classes will be allowed indoors, as long as six feet of distance for class participants is possible in all directions. The class size, like the gym’s overall capacity, will be limited to 33% of the total class size. No more than 50 people will be allowed in a class no matter how big the space.
Activities that include physical contact, such as boxing and martial arts, are permitted but without close physical contact. “For example, hitting a boxing bag rather than a person,” said a spokesperson at Bellone’s office.
Face coverings must be worn by employees and those inside the gym, but not all face coverings will do; bandanas, buffs and gaiters are not acceptable, Bellone’s office said.
Each facility must have sanitizing stations, as well. At each inspection, businesses will receive a gallon of the state’s Clean hand sanitizer.
There are some parts of the gyms that will not be allowed to reopen just yet. They include locker-room showers, whirlpools, sauna/steam rooms, water fountains and self-serve bars.
Gym owners can call Suffolk 311 or visit the Suffolk County BRU website, suffolkcountyny.gov/bru for more information.