ITHACA, N.Y. –– Following Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement Monday that gyms and fitness centers will be allowed to resume operations as soon as next week, the Tompkins County Health Department is now asking gym owners and operators to submit their reopening plans for approval.

Gyms have been closed across the state since the pandemic ramped up in mid-March.

“Our local gyms and fitness facilities are now part of the NYS Phase 4 reopening process and can reopen within the posted guidelines, including for indoor classes. The reopening of these spaces was delayed as COVID-19 has progressed, and we appreciate the patience and adherence to the guidance by gym operators,” said Frank Kruppa, Public Health Director. “Exercise is so important for everyone’s health and mental well-being during this challenging time. We ask that operators and the public be patient as Environmental Health conducts required inspections and as gyms put in place the necessary precautions to limit exposure and prevent the spread of the virus.”

The guidance applies to all fitness activities and facilities including standalone gyms, hotel gyms, residential, and office gyms and fitness centers, gyms and fitness centers in higher education institutions, yoga/Pilates/barre studios, boxing/kickboxing gyms, fitness boot camps, CrossFit or other plyometric box classes, and other group fitness classes.

Gyms will be allowed to host indoor classes within the state guidelines.

In order to reopen in Tompkins County –– starting Aug. 24 –– a safety plan using the NYS Safety Plan Template that includes the required certification of the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system must be submitted to tceh@tompkins-co.org and New York state through their website.

In addition to their safety plan submissions, the following rules are also required to reopen:

  • Capacity: 33% occupancy limit.
  • PPE: appropriate face coverings must be worn at all times
  • Classes: By appointment/reservation only; maximum class capacity limited by the 6-feet social distancing rules, but in no case more than 33% of the typical class size; cleaning and disinfection required between each session.
  • Air Handling Systems: Gyms should operate with MERV-13 or greater filtration. If they are unable to operate at that level, they must have a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) professional document their inability to do so and adopt additional ventilation and mitigation protocols. Documentation from a HVAC professional is required for all facilities with HVAC systems.

After TCHD receives your plan and HVAC certification, they will contact gym owners to schedule an inspection or request additional information.

For more information on reopening go to the NY Forward site, or contact TCHD with any additional questions. For local updates and information, check the TCHD Moving Forward page and website.

As a reminder, Individuals presenting symptoms or with concerns about being exposed should stay home and seek testing. The Cayuga Health Sampling Site is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. for testing by appointment. To register call Cayuga Health Call Center at 607-319-5708, or visit them online.

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at alamb@ithacavoice.com