New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that gyms across the state will be able to resume indoor operations with new precautions once they close for about five months next week.
According to Cuomo, gyms are allowed to resume operations at 33% capacity. He added that gyms must meet state health requirements, which will be released later on Monday. Customers and employees are required to wear masks in facilities, and gyms are subject to new ventilation requirements.
While gyms are subject to new restrictions, reopening is another step towards normalcy in New York, which has managed to keep the spread of Covid-19 low across the state while gradually reopening parts of the economy. The state, which was one of the first to be hit by the coronavirus in the United States and suffered one of the deadliest outbreaks, is now going a way forward.
"The gyms can be opened on August 24th," said Cuomo at a press conference. "The guidelines are for gyms today. Basically the capacity is 33%. The guidelines have health requirements that need to be adjusted to the ventilation requirements. This is a whole new topic and we can do a whole lot of good work about it. "
Planet Fitness shares were trading at 1.7% on Monday afternoon.
"We look forward to working with our franchisees to safely reopen our New York locations under Governor Cuomo's guidelines to provide New Yorkers with much-needed access to quality, affordable health and fitness," the said Company in a statement to CNBC.
Cuomo added that local officials must inspect the gyms before they reopen or within two weeks of opening "to make sure they are meeting all requirements". He said the localities have until September 2nd to inspect the gyms and see if they can reopen if they can't do so before August 24th.
"The state will honestly be making the tough decisions. I'll say the stores have to close. I'll say the gyms have to close. I'll say the bars have to close. Let them accuse you," said Cuomo. "You, the local governments, have to do the compliance and enforcement work."
He conceded that gym owners are likely to criticize the state's health requirements for being too difficult, but added that the guidelines were drawn up by health officials and engineers. He said gyms were a "problem area" and "that's why we took it slow".
"If it's not done right it can be a problem, and we've seen that," he said of gym reopening. "You have to get the economy going again, you have to move life forward. That's the constant tension you're trying to go and so far we've got it right."
Another reason the state is willing to allow gyms to reopen is because everyone signs up to gyms, according to Cuomo, which enables effective contact tracing when a group of infections is traced back to a gym. He added that the state's low overall infection rate means residents can safely engage in more activities without risking a massive outbreak.
Cuomo said 0.7% of all coronavirus tests in New York were positive on Sunday, the latest data available. The state has had an average of less than 1% of positive tests since June. He added that six people died of Covid-19 on Sunday, well below the more than 800 daily deaths the state recorded at the height of the outbreak in April.
Once the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak, New York has made strides to repel the initial outbreak and keep the daily rate of infection low compared to many other states. However, according to the Johns Hopkins University, the virus has infected more than 425,500 people and killed at least 32,800 people in the state.
Cuomo has warned repeatedly over the past few weeks that despite the numbers remaining low, New Yorkers need to remain vigilant as the virus could quickly rebound as people, businesses and officials rush to reopen.
The entire state is currently in the fourth and final phase of Cuomo's reopening plan, but a number of businesses, including gyms and restaurants, will remain closed to indoor operations. Cuomo announced last week that the bowling alleys could reopen with changes from Monday and that museums and other cultural sites will be allowed to reopen on August 24th.
Cuomo has taken particular caution with reopening gyms.
"We know that gyms from other states are very problematic. They opened them and had to close," Cuomo said at a press conference on August 6th. "We're here, tender on this island in upstate New York, this sea of spreading around us, so that we know we have this storm and have to be very, very careful."
Health officials are still learning how exactly the coronavirus spreads and what environments are most at risk of infection. Infectious disease specialists say that outdoor environments where people can spread from each other are the least risky. Overcrowded indoor spaces with poor ventilation are among the most risky environments, according to experts. It is crucial that people wear masks under such conditions.