Five months after gyms and fitness facilities had to close due to COVID-19, they will soon be allowed to reopen since New York continues to enjoy a relatively low infection rate.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said Monday that gyms can reopen their doors as early as August 24 with 33 percent capacity. All gym-goers and staff must wear a mask at all times. A sign-in form must be used so the gyms know exactly who has been there for contact tracing purposes.
Also, gyms must have proper ventilation systems, using the MERV-13 filter, as well as the proper filtration systems.
Cuomo admitted that gyms ownership and staff are going to say the guidelines issued are difficult ones. “And they are,” he said.
New York State has one of the lowest infection rates in the country — .71 percent as of yesterday — Cuomo said. “Right now we are averaging 1 percent or under since June and that is exactly where we want to be,” he said.
Officials want to protect that rate, and health experts have said that there is a high risk for the spread of COVID-19 due to higher densities, the increased breathing rate that comes with working out and common touch areas.
In order to ensure compliance in gyms, gyms must be inspected by local health departments before they reopen — which is why the start date for reopening is in one week — or within two weeks of their opening, Cuomo said. The health department must allow them to reopen by September 2.
The health departments will also be the ones to determine if the gym can hold classes inside.
Hundreds of gym and fitness studio owners across the state are apart of a class-action lawsuit against Cuomo for not allowing them to reopen in Phase 4. Many gyms and fitness facilities, including the Hampton Gym Corp. and SoulCycle, have been hosting classes outdoors this summer while awaiting a state decision about reopening.
Gyms, bowling alleys and movie theaters are the few businesses not allowed to reopen in the first four phases under New York Forward, as the state cited concern with density and ventilation systems. Last week, bowling alleys received news they could reopen on Monday.
“Are gyms any tougher than restaurants and bowling alleys? I don’t really think so,” Cuomo said in response to a question. He said the state decided to go slow because there is concern about the spread from health experts. “If it’s not done right it can be a problem and we’ve seen that,” elsewhere in the country, he said.
“The flip-side of the scale is you need to get the economy back up, you need to get life moving forward. That’s the constant tension you’re trying to walk,” he said.
Movie theaters have still not been given the green light. Cuomo called it “a risky situation,” and “on the index of how essential, movie theaters are not that high on the list of essential.”