Gyms get green light to reopen; Movie theaters still waiting

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Categories: News

ALBANY — Gyms in New York state can open as soon as next Monday if they put strict new health measures in place, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.

Gyms and fitness centers, which have been closed since March as part of the state’s efforts to control the COVID-19 pandemic, will be allowed to open with a maximum 33 percent capacity, Cuomo said at a press conference.

“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.

Masks will be mandatory for both customers and staff, and sanitation supplies must be available to all customers. Fitness equipment must be cleaned between uses, the governor’s office said.

Other health protection measures will be in place, including taking temperatures and screening patrons at the door, and a sign-in form for everyone in case contract-tracing is needed. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems must have filters that meet the MERV-13 guideline, the same level of filtration as is being required of shopping malls.

“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,” Cuomo said.

The 33 percent capacity was the recommendation of health officials who looked at the experiences of gyms across the country, the governor said.

After five months of their facilities being closed, an industry group representing gym operators expressed gratitude to Cuomo, despite the restrictions on how many people can exercise at any given time.

“The New York State Fitness Alliance thanks Governor Cuomo for his continued leadership in reopening the economy in an intelligent way,” said Bill Lia, chairman of New York State Fitness Alliance. “The fitness industry is ready to reopen safely, with proper protocols in place to protect our employees and members. We look forward to providing New Yorkers access to safe fitness facilities so they can advance their physical and mental health.”

The announcement about requirements for gyms to reopen came three days after Cuomo announced guidelines for reopening bowling alleys.

Bowling alleys that complied could start operating again as of Monday, Aug. 17.

Representatives of both bowling alleys and gyms have complained vocally in recent weeks about not being allowed to reopen because of the pandemic, even as other parts of the retail economy and restaurants have been allowed to return.

Still sidelined are movie theaters, though the president of the state chapter of the National Association of Theater Owners argued during an appearance at Bow Tie Cinemas in Schenectady on Saturday that movie houses can reopen safely, with capacity restrictions.

But Cuomo indicated movie theaters won’t be reopening any time soon.

“I’m sure there’s a whole group of people who say, ‘I cannot live without going to the movies,’” the governor said at his press conference. “But on a relative scale, a movie theater is less essential and poses a high risk.  It is congregate. It’s one ventilation system, you’re seated there for a long period of time.”

For gyms, the openings can happen as early as Aug. 24, but localities must open them by Sept. 2 at the latest, Cuomo said. Inspections must be done by local municipalities on every gym before it opens or within two weeks of opening. Municipalities must enforce the new state regulations.

Local municipalities also will determine whether gyms can hold indoor classes, Cuomo said.

Whether those inspections will be done by municipal building code enforcement or public health officials wasn’t specified.

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This inspection requirement is unique,” the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce said in a message to members. “We will share more information about these local inspection requirements as soon as possible.”

The state has about 2,000 fitness facilities that have in total about 85,000 employees, with 4 million members, the Fitness Alliance said.

Reach staff writer Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086,

[email protected]

 or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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