Time to flex again: Gyms across New York may reopen on limited basis, Cuomo says

(iStock) Photo Credit: Girl texting while using gym equipment. (iStock)

New Yorkers may be able to get their pump on once again as Governor Andrew Cuomo mulls the prospect of allowing gyms to reopen — even as indoor dining remains off-limits and school reopenings are still subject to plenty of debate.

Starting Aug. 24, gyms can begin letting members in at a maximum 33% capacity, with mask and social distancing guideline strictly adhered to, according to Cuomo. The CEOs of major chain facilities are taking an optimistic view after five months in hibernation.

Though ventilation and HVAC requirements will need to be met, Cuomo expects the state to have more particulars by next week, he said during a press conference Monday. Many of the finer points of gym reopenings are also being left to local governments.

“Gyms can open as soon as Aug. 24, but the locality must open them by 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, so that variation is to give localities time,” Cuomo said. “Localities can also determine if the gym has classes inside it … localities can decide whether or not those classes can be undertaken.”

The announcement comes as restaurant owners in New York City are still expected to serve food and drink out on curb-space allotted to them by the city Department of Transportation. Indoor seating has been allowed in most counties across the state as part of Phase III of reopening, but the five boroughs were viewed as a different element entirely back in July.

“Health clubs have long been an extension of the healthcare system as it is well documented that exercise is highly beneficial to a person’s physical and mental wellbeing,” Andrew Alfano, CEO of Retro Fitness, said. “Retro Fitness is a 100% Franchise Organization with every health club owned and operated by a small business owner, whose livelihoods have been interrupted with no financial relief. While we are pleased to hear New York’s announcement for the reopening of health clubs, we must request that Governor Cuomo provide immediate financial assistance for losses health clubs sustained from mandating their closure for 154 days.”

Ben Midgely, CEO of Crunch Franchising, says the franchise has been preparing to offer their clients a healthy exercise atmosphere for sometime through HVAC technology and plans to fully comply with the state’s COVID-19 mandates.

“In all of our New York City Signature locations… we’ve added airPHX devices, which generate a proprietary blend of oxidizing molecules when ambient air goes through its plasma cell. These are molecules that occur naturally in most environments, but airPHX produces them in a unique mixture and in levels that are both extremely effective in killing germs and well below safe levels as established by health regulations,” Midgely said.We were undoubtedly disappointed that our clubs were removed from the Phase 4 reopening plan last month, but are very excited to bring back our team members from their extended furlough and to provide our members with a place to focus on their personal health.”

Yet the governor acknowledged there’s plenty of risk in reopening gyms.

“Gyms are one of the areas where you have to be very careful, and we know that… If it’s not done right it can be a problem,” Cuomo said. “The flip-side of the scale is we need to get the economy back up, we need to live moving forward. So that’s the constant tension we’re trying to walk.”

Cuomo says a higher degree of caution has come into play in reopening gyms after the difficulty of allowing bars and restaurants to begin serving outdoors again, with people crowding into the streets and sidewalks while discarding masks and social distancing guidelines.

Unlike movie theaters and bowling alleys, Cuomo said the administration gave gyms priority based on the public health benefits.