New York to Allow Indoor Gyms to Reopen — With Restrictions

ALBANY, (AP) -
new york gyms bowling alleys
William Nolan cleans and sanitizes before people start bowling at Homefield Bowl in Yonkers, N.Y., Monday. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Indoor gyms in New York can reopen as soon as next week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday, if they meet public health requirements including inspections, mandatory mask wearing, a 33% occupancy limit and six feet between gym-goers.

All gyms that meet the state’s health and safety standards can open by Aug. 24 or as late as Sept. 2 if local officials say they need more time for local inspections. County governments and the mayor of New York City can also decide to delay the start of indoor fitness classes beyond Sept. 2, Cuomo said.

The governor’s announcement came just over five months after the state shuttered gyms and other businesses statewide in hopes of reducing the spread of the coronavirus.

Gym and fitness-studio owners have been clamoring for their businesses to reopen as Cuomo has lifted restrictions on certain industries since mid-May. “The fitness industry is ready to reopen safely, with proper protocols in place to protect our employees and members,” Bill Lia, chairperson of the New York State Fitness Alliance, said recently.

The Cuomo Administration allowed bowling alleys to open with restrictions starting Monday, while indoor dining is allowed outside New York City.

“Are gyms any tougher than bowling alleys or restaurants?” Cuomo said. “I don’t really think so.”

Asked about the differences between indoor gyms and indoor restaurants, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa said gyms must require patrons to wear masks all the time — unlike in indoor dining. Gyms must require sign-in forms to help with contact tracing efforts, use techniques like temperature checks to screen patrons at their doors and install certain air filters, she said.

“We think all those things in combination along with the 33% is something we’re comfortable with,” DeRosa said. “If for any reason that becomes a problem, it will be something we roll back.”

Cuomo called on local governments to enforce state regulations and said those officials will decide whether gyms can hold indoor classes. The governor said localities must inspect each gym either before it opens or within two weeks of its opening.

“Gyms are one of the areas where you have to be really careful,” Cuomo said.

The governor pointed to signs that COVID-19 is spreading at a much lower level in New York now.

An average of 3 residents per 100,000 are testing positive each day for COVID-19 — a rate that’s stayed relatively flat since mid-June and ranks far below many other states.