PENFIELD, N.Y. (WROC) — Owners of several gyms and fitness centers met at Athletic Apex in Penfield Thursday to publicly explain their detailed reopening plan that they have submitted to New York state officials.
This comes at a time when gyms have been struggling financially during the pandemic and shutdown. Jeff Sanders, CEO of Athletic Apex Health Clubs, said that he paid all of his staff for the rest of March, but everyone went on furlough until PPP funds came in.
This issue is compounded when the Governor calls gyms “highly problematic,” and uncertain messaging from Bob Duffy’s office at the Chamber of Commerce for Rochester.
MORE | Gov. Cuomo says gyms are highly problematic, will remain closed until state feels they can open safely
That’s why Sanders spearheaded NYS Fitness Alliance. It’s a cooperative of dozens of gyms — including Apex, Midtown Athletic Club, Breathe, LA Fitness, and Orange Theory — across New York state which represents more four million gym members. NYS Fitness Alliance submitted their reopening proposal Thursday.
“We’re here, as an industry, to combat this pandemic,” he said. “We know health is a big part of what makes people stronger.”
The nearly ten page plan goes into great detail regarding masking, social distancing, and sanitation protocols, for members and employees. All gyms who are apart of this alliance have agreed to adhere to these guidelines.
“We believe we can reopen safely, and provide a safe environment for our members to come in and work out,” he said. “We have science and facts in place.”
Full NYS Fitness Alliance press conference:
They say their plan is in compliance or exceeds CDC guidelines, New York State Department of Health, and OSHA guidelines. The NYSFA has included a letter from Dr. Ravi Durvasula, Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases at Loyola University of Chicago.
“We formed the NYSFA to give our industry a voice and we want to work cohesively with the State,” said Sanders in a statement to the media prior to the press conference. “New Yorkers across the state are suffering physical and mentally due to not being able to utilize fitness centers… Our goal is not to just carelessly open, rather our goal is to open with the safest protocols in place from any industry.”
They also say that many other “indoor industries” can reopen, but gyms have been exempt.
During the press conference, Sanders reiterated numerous times that their goal is health and safety for everyone, and that they will emphasis and seek out dialogue with the state regarding any shifting plans.
NYSFA also say that other health issues, particularly obesity and heart problems, could be getting worse because people don’t have access to the gym.
“We know we can do this right now,” Sanders said.
Here are some details on the plan itself, as Sanders addressed them in the press conference:
“Everyone at our gym will be required to wear masks outside of the high intensity areas.”
“We want our all of gym-goers to wear masks, and the only exception on a mask would be if there’s going to be a physical (reason) that may put them in a bad health situation,” he said. “In terms of high-intensity workouts, we’re establishing guidelines, so if you’re mask is going to be limiting, then social distancing is going to have to make up for that.”
“I don’t think it’s either or.”
Dr. Durvasula did add in his letter to NYSFA that “the role of masks during high-intensity training has not been studied in controlled trials,” and that “the decision to use such protection should be left to gym members.”
“We’re prepared to make sure that social distancing is enforced, not available, but enforced.”
“We have wipes, that kill all bacteria, all viruses, that are readily available throughout the whole space.”
“Every single person has a new job role, whether you’re answering phones, greeting people at the front desk, you’re a trainer, salesperson, or manager, you’re now a sanitation expert,” he said. “When you’re walking through the club, you’re keeping an eye out for that…
“We don’t want to lose our member experience… If a member walks off (a piece of equipment) and doesn’t wipe down, we’re not going to humiliate them,” he said. “We’re going to do it for them… Then pull them aside… Our staff are ultimately responsible, and we’re going to enforce it, but we’re going to educate our members as well.”
Sanders said, referring to Athletic Apex: “We have airPHX Systems, each gym in the alliance if figuring out how to tackle the airborne pathogen.”
“We’re more prepared than industries that are open right now to provide a safer and better space.”
Number of members and time limits at each gym:
“You have 5,000 people paying for a membership, and you have less than 100 people in at a time. There’s a constant rotation, and we will have a capacity guidelines,” he said.
“We’ll be doing reservations on classes as well.”
“We’re uniquely qualified to do contact tracing better than anyone. Someone comes in, they can’t get in without checking in… When know when that person came in, who came in around them, and we have live data to track how many people were in the space, and as they’re leaving, they do the same thing.”