Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a ruling last week saying gyms can reopen beginning Monday, Aug. 24, but several area gyms said they will wait on official certification or more direction before reopening.
Gyms and other fitness centers in New York were closed in March at the start of the state's "On Pause" response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Last week, Cuomo's administration sent out a 17-page guideline about the state's reopening plan for fitness centers, including a provision that requires them to get approval from their local county's Department of Health. The certifications must come within 14 of reopening, leaving some leeway for faculties to reopen now and schedule inspections afterward.
However, the guidelines for the reopenings were not accompanied by guidelines for the county health departments on how to do the inspections.
"Otsego County and all health departments have never done this type of inspection," Otsego County Director of Public Health Heidi Bond said. "We are working to develop an inspection process that is in line with the current guidelines. We encourage gyms/fitness centers to contact us if they are planning on opening and need to schedule an inspection."
In the meantime, several Otsego County gym owners or managers said they were going to wait.
"The short answer is our intention is to reopen Sept. 2," said Josh Schlafer, a partner in Table Rock Fitness in the town of Oneonta. "It seems like everyone is scrambling through our region to understand the guidelines."
Two of the bigger fitness centers in the region issued statements on their websites Monday, with statements similar to the one from Table Rock.
"We are reviewing the 17-page document and will be working with the Otsego County DoH to determine a timeline for our possible reopening," Oneonta YMCA Executive Director Frank Russo said in a statement posted at www.oneontaymca.org. "We appreciate your patience and standing with us over the past five months. We miss you as much as (if not more) than you miss us."
Near Cooperstown, the Clark Sports Center had previously announced it would not reopen until at least Sept. 8, but Monday it put out a short statement saying, "We're working hard to make a safe and healthy environment for our staff and members. More reopening information will be available soon."
In Delhi, Cardio Club and Delhi Dance Studio owner Raegan Reed said her facility has reopened and is taking strict precautions to make sure members are working out safely. Reed had previously begun teaching outdoor yoga and exercise classes, but she said she is excited to open the club's fitness center and classrooms.
"It is exciting and it is also a little bit overwhelming," she said. "Our goal is to provide a safe and fun environment for people to exercise."
Reed said her husband, Travis, helped her remodel during the shutdown, to ensure customers could enter and exit the studio from separate areas and minimize people crossing paths inside. She said she also bought a new air filtering system to meet with state requirements and has spent several thousand dollars overall to make sure the facility is clean and workouts can be done safely. Classes will continue to be held outdoors, when possible, and karate and dance classes will start next week under the new protocols.
Schlafer said he hopes the reopening and certification process moves quickly, not just for the sake of his own establishment, but for all the businesses in the same situation as Table Rock.
"In the local gym community, people are struggling," he said. "It will be good for all of us when we can reopen."