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Fitness kept at a distance

Malverne, West Hempstead gyms reopen at limited capacity

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Gyms throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties, along with the rest of the state, were allowed to reopen on Monday, following inspection by local authorities, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Aug. 17. Facilities can reopen at 33 percent capacity, with face coverings required at all times and ventilation that meets state health guidelines.

“I only hope that people start flocking back to the gym, but I understand that so much has changed because of the pandemic,” said Michael Corleone, the owner of Kayo Boxing in West Hempstead.

Corleone, of Franklin Square, said he was in the process of getting new air filters for his gym, that the facility had already been sprayed and sanitized, and that hands-free hand sanitizer dispensers had been added. He also spaced out the punching bags to adhere to social distancing regulations.

“My name is well known in the community and Nassau County,” Corleone said, “so hopefully they’ll see that I’m a legit guy running a legit business.”

A gym owner for 16 years, he said that he lost a lot of money during the coronavirus lockdown. Corleone said he was fortunate that his landlord was willing to work with him because he regularly pays his rent on time. “I feel bad for the businesses that weren’t able to handle this meltdown,” he said. “Because we’re a small business where I only have only one employee, we’re not eligible to get loans and grants.”

The fact that he is active on social media, Corleone explained, helped keep the community informed about his gym. “The only thing that I can hope for is that the community shops locally,” he said. “It’s more important now than ever before.”

In Malverne, Fitness 19 gym owner Michael Hobbs spent the past week preparing his facility for Monday’s reopening. “From [personal protective equipment] to sanitizer stations, we’ve done everything that we need to do to reopen safely,” Hobbs said. “We’ve had a lot of time to prepare, and even though there was a lot of speculation, we kind of knew what we needed to do.”

Along with spreading out gym equipment and updating the facility’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, Hobbs also hopes to erect a tent outside for outdoor training, in which masks would be optional. While he said he was excited about reopening, he acknowledged that people have expressed mixed feeling about returning to the gym.

“It’s going to be very difficult,” Hobbs said, “but that’s the fine line that we’re walking. We’re not going to force anybody that doesn’t want to. Our goal is that we hope people are ready and willing enough to try it, and to come and experience our gym.”

Being one of the first businesses to close and one of the last to reopen, Hobbs added, made it challenging to keep his business afloat. Fitness 19 could not have done so, he said, without the village’s support. “This is a unique town that really rallies behind the businesses here,” He said. “I’d just like for people to know that we’re doing everything that we can do to make sure that our members are completely safe.”

Cuomo said that the state’s Covid-19 infection rate is the lowest it has been since the pandemic began. “Congratulations to New Yorkers,” he said last week. “New Yorkers did what everyone said couldn’t be done. Going forward, we must protect the progress by keeping the infection rate down.”