NEW YORK (WABC) -- Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that gyms in New York state will be able to open as soon as August 24 at 33% capacity, but New York City officials later suggested that reopening gyms may take longer in the city as the focus is on reopening schools safely.
Masks are required to be worn at all times, HVAC ventilation systems must be in place, and local government must complete inspections and have final say on indoor workout classes.
"There are health requirements that are in the guidelines that have to be maintained, to their ventilation requirements," the governor said. "This is a whole new topic, where we can do a lot of good work with the HVAC systems and filtration."
Local elected officials may choose to delay the reopening of gyms and fitness centers until September 2 to, in part, provide time for required local health department inspections, and may also choose to delay the reopening of indoor fitness classes until a date beyond September 2.
In New York City, the mayor will determine whether gyms and fitness centers should postpone reopening. Outside of New York City, the county's chief executive - county executive, administrator, manager, or chair of the local elected legislative body - will determine whether gym reopening needs to be postponed.
"They have to inspect the gyms before they open or within two weeks of their opening to make sure they are meeting all of the requirements," Cuomo said. "So the variation is to give the locality time. If the locality can get the inspections done or be ready to inspect, they can open August 24. If the locality cannot get ready to do inspections, then they get another week. They can do it September 2."
Cuomo says the locality can also decide if the gym can have classes inside.
"Some gyms have classes," he said. "Localities can decide whether or not those classes can be undertaken. Local-elected will be the decision and local health departments must inspect before or within two weeks to make sure the guidelines are in place."
In New York City, gyms will likely be slower to open as officials made clear indoor fitness classes would not be allowed, indoor pools will remain closed, and schools and child care centers will take priority over gyms for safety inspections.
"There's no higher priority than making sure our schools and child care centers are safe for learning in the fall, and the city's dedicated team of inspectors will continue prioritizing that work," de Blasio spokesperson Mitch Schwartz said in a statement. "While indoor fitness classes and indoor pools will not be opening at this time, we'll be developing a fair and rigorous inspection system for other gym setups in the coming weeks."
Steven Stone and Charles Cassara, with the newly formed New York Fitness Coalition, said the governor's regulations for gyms are not clear.
"Is that 33% based on total occupancy allowed in the building or total occupancy allowed where you're going to be working out?" asked Stone, who owns Title Boxing Club in Syosset.
Cassara said the ventilation requirements did not specify, for example, what a gym owner is supposed to do if he or she shares a ventilation system with a neighboring business or if the gym building does not have an appropriate air-filter and the owner cannot afford to purchase one.
Cassara said Governor Cuomo was also not clear on what constitutes a class. For example, yoga center and boxing gyms are essentially classes.
"So now does the town have the authority to say you can't open because you're a class?" he asked.
The New York Fitness Coalition presented a number of potential re-opening guidelines to the state. It did not recommend a mandatory mask policy because of the difficulty of exercising with a mask.
Stone said trainers and fitness instructors will most likely have to modify high intensity interval training.
"We're going to have to allow a little bit more breaks. We're going to have to lower the intensity a little bit," Stone said.
Both Cassara and Stone said despite the frustrations with the lack of guidance, they are glad to be reopening after five months.
"I'd rather have that frustration of unanswered questions knowing the light now is back on at the end of the tunnel," Stone said.
Cassara and Stone are part of a class-action lawsuit with 1,000 gym owners from across New York State who are suing the state for not treating them equally under the law.
With the Governor's announcement on Monday, the part of the lawsuit related to unfair treatment will be dropped, but the part accusing the government of causing irreparable harm will proceed. It is attempting to recoup $5 million in damages for gyms across the state.
In other states, gym chains have had to limit capacity and close off some of the equipment.
Meantime, bowling alleys are now allowed to reopen at 50% capacity, with every other lane closed. Face coverings are required.
The owner of Farmingdale Lanes said he has been dreaming of the sounds of bowling balls hitting pins.
John LaSpina said he loved hearing the sound in reality Monday. LaSpina owns four bowling alleys and at each location he has set up numerous sanitizing stations and has blocked off at least one lane between each player to allow for social distancing.
Sal Yannacone, of Lindenhurst, who played at Farmingdale Lanes on Monday said he's happy he doesn't have to drive to Connecticut or New Jersey anymore to play.
"All the miles that I've put on my car," he said.
Bowling alleys in New York City will not be allowed to serve food because of the ongoing restriction on indoor dining.
Looking ahead, Cuomo says cultural institutions like museums and aquariums can also open next Monday, August 24.
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