[Update Below] Governor Andrew Cuomo announced new rules for gyms to be able to reopen around New York State this morning, saying they would be allowed to open at one third capacity as early as next Monday.
According to the new guidelines, gyms can reopen at 33% capacity as long as HVAC changes are made. Masks must be worn inside at all times. Local health authorities must inspect gyms before they open or within two weeks of when they open to make sure they are fulfilling all these requirements. And local governments can determine whether gyms in their jurisdictions can hold indoor classes or not.
Gyms can reopen as early as August 24th, but localities have until September 2nd to decide whether or not to open them.
Last week, Cuomo announced that all bowling alleys could reopen with new safety protocols starting today, and museums and other cultural institutions could reopen indoors starting next week. He was asked today whether there was a specific reason why he took longer to make a decision on gyms than those other indoor activities.
“I wouldn’t say it’s the hardest, but it’s an area of concern. That’s why we went slow on it,” he said. He pointed to the steady decrease in the state's overall infection rate as evidence that the state's reopening rollout has worked while keep safety at the forefront. "You need to get the economy back up, you need to get life moving forward, so that's the constant tension you're trying to walk, and so far we've walked it right."
Gyms have been closed in the city since March 16th, and statewide since March 22nd. Last week, Gothamist reported that a group of over 1,500 gym owners from across the state, including at least 500 located in NYC, filed a class action lawsuit against Cuomo and the state to allow them to reopen. In addition to getting gyms reopened immediately, they also are looking for compensation for lost revenue over recent months.
At the press conference today, Cuomo was also critical of how local governments have been enforcing COVID-19 guidelines, and indicated that he would step in to shut down any businesses that break the rules if necessary: “The state will make, frankly, the hard decisions. I'll say the businesses have to close, I'll say the bars have to close, I'll say the gyms have to close… blame me."
There have been no indications of any changes on the state's rules on indoor dining, which was supposed to reopen in early July but has been indefinitely postponed.
Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa clarified the state's view on the difference between gyms and indoor dining: "In gyms, we're requiring masks at all times, whereas with indoor dining, by definition the patrons aren't wearing masks. You're sitting at a table, you're without a mask. One of the major issues we found when the governor stepped in with the SLA becoming much more aggressive is that people were drinking, they were standing, they were commingling, and people were letting their guard down. So this is a different situation."
You can read more here on the state's ongoing crackdown on indoor dining, and the State Liquor Authority's work behind-the-scenes to process violations.
[Update 4 p.m.] Despite Cuomo's announcement this morning, it is highly unlikely that New York City gyms will be ready to be reopened next week.
A spokesperson for the mayor said that the city's inspectors are currently prioritizing inspecting schools and childcare centers in anticipation of them reopening. Gyms won't be inspected until those are all done, and the city won't allow gyms to reopen until after those inspections are done.
While the city will eventually allow gyms to reopen for individual use—say, running on a treadmill or lifting weights—with the new guidelines in place, the city has opted out of allowing indoor fitness classes and indoor pools entirely for the time being.
“There’s no higher priority than making sure our schools and child care centers are safe for learning in the fall, and the City’s dedicated team of inspectors will continue prioritizing that work," said spokesperson Mitch Schwartz. "While indoor fitness classes and indoor pools will not be opening at this time, we’ll be developing a fair and rigorous inspection system for other gym setups in the coming weeks.”