Cuomo green lights reopening of gyms; state’s COVID infection rates hit a new low

Robert Pelaez
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that gyms throughout the state can reopen at 33 percent capacity on Aug. 24. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday that gyms throughout New York are permitted to reopen at 33 percent capacity as early as next Monday.

Protocols that will be enforced for every facility include wearing a mask at all times, social distancing of six feet, cleaning and disinfection supplies available for patron use at all times, and classes by appointment or reservation only. The gyms must also use air filters with a designated efficiency. 

Cuomo said local elected officials have the option to delay the reopening of the facilities until Sept. 2 to provide local health officials time to conduct inspections.  Officials are also permitted to delay the resumption of indoor fitness classes beyond Sept. 2.

“The localities have a role here. They have to inspect the gyms before they open or within two weeks of their opening to make sure they’re meeting all the requirements,” Cuomo said. “The local elected will make the decision in a jurisdiction and the local health departments must inspect before or within two weeks to make sure the guidelines are in place.”

Martine Hackett, an associate professor of health professions at Hofstra University, said she believes Cuomo made the right decision to open the gyms but anticipates future closures of facilities for several reasons.

“We know from a public health perspective, physical activity is a huge positive,” Hackett said in a phone interview. “So on one hand, reopening the gyms is a great step. On the other hand, gyms also represent one of the biggest challenges for maintaining control of the virus.  Whether it’s singing, breathing heavily, it is easier for the virus to spread in an enclosed space.”

Hackett said she believes the public’s general reaction will be more focused on the positives of reopening the facilities and people should take advantage of the reopening while the weather is warm.

“As the seasons change and we get into the fall and winter, it will become increasingly challenging for gyms to maintain their businesses,” Hackett said. “There is a very likely chance for the virus to spread, and then you add the general flu season on top of that.  This is probably the best time for people to go to the gym with outdoor classes and maintain social distancing while the rate of infection is generally low.”

Members of the public, Hackett said, may want to start thinking about creative ways to exercise in their homes before the colder seasons or a second wave hit.

“If we reach a point where [gyms] have to shut down, we have to think back to the original shutdown in March,” she said. “Everything was in a much more precarious state back then, and we recognize one of the things we have to do is to learn from lessons in the past to maintain our safety. People will have to start thinking creatively now to get physical activity in their routines without going to a gym or other facility.”

Gyms were initially slated to be in the fourth phase of reopening, which included media production, professional sports games with no fans, and low-risk indoor and outdoor arts and entertainment. Cuomo announced on June 24 that malls, movie theaters, schools and gyms had not yet been given the green light to reopen by the state.

Cuomo announced on Friday that bowling alleys were able to reopen at 50 percent capacity, with face masks to be worn at all times and every other lane to be closed off to maintain social distancing.

Cuomo referred to the state’s continuously low infection rate as the reason for reopening gyms, fitness facilities and bowling alleys, as the state’s daily positive test rate for the coronavirus was below 1 percent for the 10th consecutive day.

“While it’s encouraging that we’ve reached the point where it’s acceptable for them to begin reopening in our communities, this is not the time to forget that the pandemic is ongoing,” he said. “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.”

A total of 0.71 percent of Sunday’s coronavirus tests throughout the state came back positive, the lowest daily positivity rate since the beginning of the crisis.

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Robert Pelaez

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