Gyms across New York state can reopen as soon as next Monday, following inspection by local authorities, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday. Facilities can reopen at 33 percent capacity, with face coverings, and ventilation that meets state guidelines, required.
“Localities have a role here,” Cuomo said. “They have to inspect gyms before they open, or within two weeks before they open.”
Glen Cove gym owners were happy to hear the announcement, which came exactly five months after gyms were forced to close because of the coronavirus pandemic. “We’ve been preparing,” said Alvin Batista, who owns Glen Cove Fitness. “I’ve already upgraded the HVAC system with the MERV-13 filters, which is one of the recommendations [Cuomo] made. We’ve increased sanitizer stations. We added a hand-wash station.”
Asked about the requirement that clients wear masks at all times, even while they exercise, Batista said the rule would be enforced. “After being closed for five months, our goal is to open up and stay open,” he said. “We don’t want to have any increases in infection … We’re doing everything we can do to keep the place as safe as possible.”
According to the American Council on Exercise, most people can safely exercise while wearing a mask. They should monitor how they feel during workouts, however, because masks do slightly restrict airflow. Dizziness, lightheadedness and shortness of breath are signs that someone should slow down.
Those who work out with masks on, according to the council, should reduce the intensity of their workouts, especially if they involve routines such as high-intensity interval training, which stresses the cardio-respiratory system.
The council also suggests that people with pre-existing respiratory or cardiovascular conditions be extra cautious when exercising while wearing masks. Those with obstructive pulmonary disorder, asthma, chronic bronchitis, pulmonary fibrosis and other lung conditions should consult a medical professional before exercising with a mask on.
Matilde Tysz, a co-owner of the Max Challenge of Glen Cove, said she was nervous about the mask mandate for her clients, because the workouts the club offers can be intense. The indoor classes will be limited to seven students and one instructor, all wearing masks. “It won’t be business as usual,” Tysz said. “We may have to modify our workout in order to be able to have our members wear masks, but that’s the protocol that we have to follow.”
Clients will, however, have other options for working out, with online classes and outdoor sessions at Pryibil Beach and Morgan Park. Those who attend the outdoor workouts can take their masks off once they are at least eight to nine feet from fellow clients.
“We’re excited to be able to see our members,” Tysz said. “We were excited when we were able to do outdoor classes, because now we have the opportunity to work out together. That makes a difference.”
Batista said that memberships at Glen Cove Fitness were frozen when the gym closed in March. The past five months have been difficult, he said, adding that he wished gyms could have opened sooner. “We basically had no income for five months,” Batista said, though the gym was able to take part in programs like the federal Paycheck Protection Program.
“I don’t understand, and no one has ever clarified from the state, why gyms were taken out of Phase 4,” he said, “and it just seems like we’ve been closed for six weeks after Phase 4, and there really is no difference between today and six weeks ago.”
Many New Yorkers felt the same way, and created the New York State Fitness Alliance to advocate for gym, studio and fitness center owners, employees and clients as the pandemic dragged on. The group made the case that fitness centers are necessary for people to maintain physical and mental health, and that, with the proper guidelines, they present a minimal risk for the spread of Covid-19.
In fact, the alliance cited statistics from Member Experience Management that the ratio of Covid-19 cases to fitness center visits nationwide is 1 in 42,731, or just 0.002 percent, with 1,155 cases of the virus reported out of a total of more than 49 million visits to more than 2,800 locations in 47 states.
As Cuomo announced that gyms could reopen, he added that the state’s Covid-19 infection rate was the lowest it had been since the pandemic began. “Congratulations to New Yorkers. New Yorkers did what everyone said couldn’t be done,” he said. “Going forward, we must protect the progress by keeping the infection rate down.”