Gyms and fitness centers will be allowed to open as early as Aug. 24, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.
During his Monday morning announcement, Cuomo stated guidelines would be released for reopening such businesses. Those guidelines include the mandatory wearing of masks and a capacity limit of 33%. Facilities' ventilation systems must also meet defined requirements.
The guidelines also put responsibility on local governments to conduct inspections.
"Gyms can open as soon as Aug. 24, but the locality must open them by Sept. 2," Cuomo said. "The localities have a role here. They have to inspect the gyms before they open, or within two weeks of their opening, to make sure they're meeting all the requirements. That variation is to give localities time if the localities need it."
Localities will also decide whether individual centers may be permitted to hold indoor classes.
Amy Bueme, who owns Catalyst Fitness in the Buffalo area, said many of the guidelines set forth by the governor were among her company's reopening plans, including mandatory masks.
"We already do trace and check people in. We're also going to have them sign in and sign out, just so we can really double check, if anything were to happen when somebody was in the club," she said. "Also, it's going to help for our occupancy, so we know how many people we have in the club."
Bueme said she's fine with the 33% capacity requirement and tells WBFO her company already has the required filters to meet ventilation regulations, and more are being ordered.
Club owners affiliated with the New York State Fitness Alliance, including Bueme, argue they can operate their centers safely. They also dispute Cuomo's earlier suggestion that such businesses are non-essential during the pandemic.
Bueme said gyms provide a source for improving both physical and mental health.
"It seems so simple, but when you're around like-minded people that want to become healthier, that pushes you in a good positive way. And you release those endorphins in your body and in your brain. It just really sets the human body up for success," she said.
Gym owners also urged the state to let them reopen, citing severe financial losses from prolonged shutdowns and the jobs lost as a result. Catalyst Fitness employed 300 people, full- and part-time, before the pandemic resulted in "New York on PAUSE." Some jobs needed to be eliminated while some employees left on their own, uncertain of the future, to find other jobs.
Bueme said it will take some time to fully calculate her losses and determine how many employees may return. But first, she's simply happy she can reopen her doors to her clients.
"We won't really know where we're at, probably for a little bit. But I don't want to think about that right now," she said. "I just want to think about how excited I am that I could possibly be open Aug. 24."