LAKE RONKONKOMA, NY (OnSachem.com / OnTownMedia.com) — After being forced to close over five months ago amid the COVID-19 pandemic, gyms and fitness centers in New York State can begin reopening next week, as long as local governments don’t require a delay.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo today announced gyms and fitness centers can reopen starting Monday, Aug. 24, and must implement new health and safety standards, including limiting capacity to 33%, installing special HVAC filters, and requiring every gym goer to wear a mask—including during their workout.
The announcement is welcome news for Planet Fitness. Just weeks before the pandemic spread wildly across New York State, Planet Fitness celebrated the grand opening of its new location at 585 Portion Road in Lake Ronkonkoma. The fitness center opened on Tuesday, Feb. 11. However, just five weeks later, the brand-new facility was forced to close by 8 p.m. Monday, March. 16. At that moment, major restrictions took effect in accordance with Governor Cuomo’s executive order. Simultaneously, all gyms, movie theaters and casinos closed, restaurants and bars were limited to takeout and delivery only, and crowd capacity was reduced to 50 people.
After five long months of locked doors, Planet Fitness is ready to reopen.
“At Planet Fitness, we see ourselves as an integral part of the healthcare delivery system, and part of the solution to combating COVID-19,” Planet Fitness spokesperson Becky Zirlen told OnSachem today. “Fitness plays an important role in positively impacting our mental and physical well-being, in addition to fighting COVID-19 risk factors such as obesity, heart disease, lung disease and diabetes. We look forward to working with our franchisees to safely reopen our locations in New York under Governor Cuomo’s guidelines, in order to provide New Yorkers with much-needed access to high quality, affordable health and fitness.”
A specific reopening date for Planet Fitness in Lake Ronkonkoma has not been set yet.
Cuomo said county executives have final approval of the Aug. 24 reopening and may extend the date until Sept. 2. In addition, the county executives may choose to prohibit indoor fitness classes until after Sept. 2. OnSachem reached out to the office of Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone for comment and will update this article once there is a response.
Local health departments must inspect gyms prior to reopening, or within two weeks of reopening, to ensure strict adherence to the state’s Department of Health guidance, according to Cuomo.
"As New York maintains daily positive test rates below 1 percent, the state has determined that local elected officials can allow gyms and fitness centers to reopen at 33 percent capacity while following rigorous safety protocols, including wearing masks at all times," Cuomo said. "While it's encouraging that we've reached the point where it's acceptable for them to begin reopening in our communities, this is not the time to forget that the pandemic is ongoing. New Yorkers must closely adhere to the guidelines and local health departments are required to strictly enforce them to help ensure gyms and fitness centers reopen safely and protect the public health."
Cuomo announced the following requirements for gyms and fitness centers to reopen.
33% occupancy limit.
Sign-in with contact information and health screening required.
Personal Protective Equipment / PPE
Appropriate face coverings required at all times.
6 feet of separation at all times.
Hygiene / Cleaning
Cleaning and disinfection supplies made available to customers; shared equipment cleaned after every use; staff must also be available to clean and disinfect equipment in between uses; rental equipment must be cleaned and disinfected between customer uses.
By appointment/reservation only; maximum class capacity capped at the number of people that can adhere to the 6-feet social distancing rules, but in no case more than 33% of the typical class size (i.e., leave stations, cycles, etc. vacant); classes should be scheduled to allow additional time for cleaning and disinfection in between each session.
Water bottle refill stations permitted, but not shared water fountains; communal showers are closed, but individual showers/stalls can remain open so long as they are cleaned in between uses.
Air Handling Systems
Gyms should operate at MERV-13 or greater; if they are unable to operate at that level, they must have heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) professional document their inability to do so and adopt additional ventilation and mitigation protocols from American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Local health departments shall inspect before or within two weeks of the gym/fitness center opening to ensure compliance.