What New Yorkers Should Expect as Gyms Finally Reopen
Fitness studios can reopen across New York City as of Wednesday, September 2nd
According to an announcement today from Governor Andrew Cuomo, gyms across New York State will be able to open as early as next Monday, August 24th. That doesn’t specifically include health clubs in New York City — Mayor Bill de Blasio was quick to point out that city-based studios will not open until the following Wednesday, September 2nd — but it’s a huge step for one of the densest regions of the country, which is also the birthplace of ClassPass, Equinox and SoulCycle, and home to a neighborhood we dubbed America’s “Fitness District” earlier this year.
As New York City clubs open up, they’ll have to follow the same regulations appointed for gyms statewide: no indoor classes allowed, workout spaces will be limited to a third of their capacity, gym-goers must wear face masks at all times (even if you’re going for a personal record on the treadmill or at the squat rack), all HVAC systems must be up to snuff and capable of filtering viral particles, and sign-in sheets must be present at the door, God forbid public-health officials need to contact-trace guests at the gym. Governor Cuomo expects to assemble a task force of inspectors who will check every single gym across the city within a couple weeks of opening to make sure they’re complying with all the rules.
It isn’t yet clear which governmental agency will be enforcing these new regulations, but Downstate’s delayed opening — where the overwhelming majority of the state’s fitness studios are situated — gives Governor Cuomo’s team some time to establish an effective system.
In addition to meeting state requirements, gyms may consider taking their own steps to make members (new or returning) more comfortable. A prominent survey last month revealed that 59% of Americans have no intention of going back to the gym after COVID-19. That might not prove a serious issue among a populace short on space, but extra safety measures on the part of the studio can nonetheless go a long away: think straightforward online booking schedules, plexiglass barriers between machines, opened doors or windows and locker-room capacity limits (if not temporary bans).
New York has come a long way to reach this point. It’s now the 43rd state (plus Washington, D.C.) to open its gyms in some capacity, and the announcement comes after 10 straight days of a COVID-19 positive test rate below 1%. Still, New Yorkers would be wise to treat the opening as a precarious privilege, instead of a triumphant return. Long before American gyms resumed operations, a South Korean dance studio made global headlines when its premature opening led to the infection of 112 people. The researchers who studied the outbreak concluded: “Intense physical exercise in densely populated sports facilities could increase risk for infection. Vigorous exercise in confined spaces should be minimized during outbreaks.”
To that point, just remember to do your part. Your local is coming off a half-year of frozen or canceled memberships. If it’s an independent, it’s really hurting, and it desperately needs this opening to go well. Wear your mask, don’t work out if you’re sick, and don’t sneeze on a dumbbell. We can do this. And sometime next year, we can all start attending those group classes we were just about to start attending before the virus arrived.
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