A coalition of gym and fitness center operators has submitted a reopening plan to the Cuomo Administration, along with the message that such facilities are capable of operating safely and should be allowed to resume business.
The New York State Fitness Alliance's reopening plan details strategies for operating while taking measures to curb the spread of COVID.
"We're going to take your temperature. You're going to sign a health waiver. You are going to social distance. You're going to keep your mask on," said Amy Bueme, chief executive officer of Catalyst Fitness in Amherst, which hosted a Thursday afternoon gathering where she and other owners urged the governor to reopen gyms. "Class sizes will be shortened. There'll only be limited cardio pieces available, but we will be cleaning all throughout the day. We will spray and sanitize at night and be ready for the next day."
Bueme says her center's plan is in line with OSHA, CDC and New York State Department of Health. What frustrates Alliance members is what they describe as a lack of communication or feedback from Governor Andrew Cuomo's office.
One speaker, Tony Scirri, revealed he has already held a handful of private workout sessions and encourages gym owners to reopen in defiance of the governor. His comments took a more politically pointed turn, suggesting an ulterior motive to keeping gyms and other institutions closed.
"It's not about the fitness business, they just want to destroy," he said. "Whatever kind of gathering they can do, be it a church, any place where there's power, where people can get together and stay together."
Others speaking out in support of opening gyms argue that, contrary to the opinion of the Cuomo Administration, gyms and fitness centers are essential businesses. Following a shutdown that kept New Yorkers isolated and in light of concerns for a second wave of coronavirus cases, gym operators say what they provide is a means for clients, through exercise, to strengthen their immune systems and also their mental health.
"We touch people's lives every day. Every day," said an emotional Rebekah Kissel, a certified personal trainer at Catalyst. "We love our jobs. But you're not giving us a chance to help people where they need it the most."
Gym operators are also concerned about the long term effects on their finances. Leading up to the state's shutdown in March, Bueme employed 300 full- and part-time workers. Many, she admitted, won't be coming back when she's finally allowed to reopen.
"We had to lay off some people that will not be coming back. Also, because we were closed so long, we lost staff that had to go and get other jobs, because they couldn't wait," she said. "Now, unemployment is stopped. So, I don't know. I don't know when I'll get the green light to open. And if I do, will I even have a staff? I don't know if I'll have all my staff. That will be another problem I'll have to address."
Bueme was asked about financial losses during the news conference, but would not define them in dollars. Later, WBFO asked her to describe her losses with just one adjective.
"Significant," she replied.