Since the coronavirus pandemic began to ravage New York in mid-March, gyms and fitness centers have remained strictly closed for business. Some gyms adapted by holding classes outside or online, but it was still an adjustment from the norm.
Finally, on August 17, Governor Cuomo announced that gyms and fitness centers in the state of New York would be permitted to reopen starting August 24. Museums, aquariums, and bowling alleys received a green light from Cuomo at the same time.
In New York City, however, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that gyms would not reopen before September 2, explaining that “based on the reality in New York City, we won’t start before September 2. The priority is going to be the inspections we need to do for child care centers and schools. We are going to work through how to balance that.”
New York’s decision to reopen gyms came weeks or even months after many other states across the country. At least 43 states and Washington, D.C have allowed gyms to reopen in some form, but Governor Cuomo explained he was focused on keeping his state’s positive coronavirus test rate at or below 1%.
Gyms have been “problematic” in other states, Cuomo said, and he didn’t want those same problems to hamper New York’s recovery efforts.
Though some have complained that Cuomo allowed gyms to reopen while still forcing movie theaters and malls to remain closed, Cuomo responded firmly, “We’re saying today that gyms for New Yorkers are more essential than movie theaters.”
Working Out in the Age of Coronavirus
Gyms can’t immediately return to pre-pandemic operations. Governor Cuomo’s reopening announcement included a list of rules that gyms must follow in order to reopen and remain in operation.
First, gyms will be limited to a third of their capacity, and a health screening is required upon check in. Every gym member must sign in and out for contact tracing measures in case of a virus outbreak. All fitness centers must also use air filters with a rating of MERV-13 or greater to minimize and prevent the transmission of virus particles.
Masks are required at all times- even when on a treadmill, elliptical, or bicycle, as is social distancing. This will put a new spin on workout classes, equipment arrangement, and stretch mats that often involve close contact and high traffic.
Other high-risk gym features like whirlpools, saunas, steam rooms, and water fountains must remain closed, though touch-free water bottle refill stations are permitted to remain open for use.
“We are certainly going to take a pretty strict stance in the name of preserving our low level of infection,” Mayor Bill de Blasio explained of the city’s slow and cautious reopening measures. “We want to see jobs come back, we want to see amenities for people. We also have to make sure it’s done safely.”