BATAVIA — It appears that many gyms and fitness-related facilities in Genesee and Orleans counties that reopened Monday, Aug. 24, are not following all the guidelines set by the state. They have not made an appointment for a review by the health department or someone designated by the health department, a Genesee County official said Wednesday.
During the Genesee County Legislature meeting, County Manager Matt Landers said the county would work with the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce and Genesee and Orleans County health departments to set up a Zoom call for the benefit of gyms and related businesses. Owners of gyms and related fitness facilities would be able to ask questions all at once. It might be best to just have a catch-all Zoom session where businesspeople can ask all the questions they want to Paul Pettit, public health director for Genesee and Orleans counties.
“They’re opening. A lot of facilities are opening and the guidelines were, you had to meet requirements to open, but that you had two weeks to get reviewed by the health department,” he said.
“This is something that is on the radar, big-time. I think since many of these facilities were waiting so long, waiting so long, waiting so long and then they finally got news they could open. I don’t know if it was a matter that they just got really excited. ‘We can open,’ without reading the second part of the information that came out,” Landers told legislators. “There is an effort now being made by the health department to try to identify as many as they can. They can’t reach out to every single operation out there, because there isn’t a single listing of all the entities that are covered by this regulation.”
Legislator Andrew Young asked when the deadline is.
“They were able to open this Monday, the 24th. It’s (within) two weeks that they get reviewed by the health department or their designee,” Landers said. “It doesn’t have to be someone from the health department. It just has to be somebody reviewing it ... There are some counties that have utilized code enforcement ...”
Young asked who the county is using and Landers said at this point, it is using the health department.
The openings are contingent on meeting state guidelines, that include limits on capacity require masks to be worn at all times, and completion of the review.
Pettit said recently that the departments are proceeding with limited guidance from the state.
The guidelines apply to fitness activities and facilities, including, but not limited to, standalone/hotel/residential/office/higher education institutions gyms and fitness centers, yoga/Pilates/barre studios, boxing/kickboxing gyms, fitness boot camps, CrossFit or other plyometric boxes, other fitness classes, dance studios, martial arts studios, spin, rowing, etc. would be allowed to reopen if they have completed the state requirements.
Prior to reopening and inspection, gym owners and managers have to adhere to the state guidelines which can be found on the NY Forward website and completing the following steps:
n Develop a business safety plan;
n Have an HVAC inspection by an approved professional;
n Complete the affirmation for each facility location that they have reviewed and understand the New York state guidelines and will implement these protocols. Click the link for the affirmation statement and choose gyms and fitness centers, https://forms.ny.gov/s3/ny-forward-affirmation.
Once the business safety plan and air handling inspection are complete and an attestation form is submitted, Genesee and Orleans Counties will begin the process of scheduling inspections. These steps must be completed prior to scheduling an inspection. For Genesee County, call (585) 343-2580 ext. 5555 and for Orleans County, call (585) 589-3278.
The state’s guidance includes:
n Capacity: 33-percent occupancy limit;
n Access: Sign-in with contact information and health screening required;
n PPE: Appropriate face coverings required at all times;
n Distancing: 6 feet of separation at all times;
n Hygiene/Cleaning: Cleaning and disinfection supplies made available to customers; shared equipment cleaned after every use; staff must also be available to clean and disinfect equipment in between uses; rental equipment must be cleaned and disinfected between customer use;
n Classes: By appointment/reservation only; maximum class capacity capped at number of people that can adhere to the 6-foot social distancing rules, but in no case more than 33 percent of the typical class size (i.e., leave stations, cycles, etc. vacant); classes should be scheduled to allow additional time for cleaning and disinfection in between each session;
n Amenities: Water bottle refill stations permitted, but not shared water fountains; communal showers are closed, but individual showers/stalls can remain open so long as they are cleaned in between use;
n Air Handling Systems: Gyms should operate at MERV-13 or greater; if they are unable to operate at that level, they must have heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) professional document their inability to do so and adopt additional ventilation and mitigation protocols from American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
After the meeting, Landers said, “About half of the gyms we reached out to weren’t aware of having to schedule an appointment with the health department and having the health department review their plans. We’re going to continue to reach out and inform and educate our local gyms and related facilities of the state requirements and to quickly schedule an appointment with the health department ...
“Basically, our health department reached out to approximately 25 gyms because our health department had not had too many gyms reach out to schedule an appointment. Of that sample, approximately half of them didn’t seem to understand what the rules were,” he said. “That makes us concerned that across the two counties, that many of these gyms and related facilities may not know how to comply with the requirements.”
Landers said, “We’ve been lucky, we haven’t had to fine (facilities) and we’re not looking to fine anyone. The health department has the authority to do it, but luckily, everyone has been cooperative. The health department is not interested in doing any fining. They just want to make sure every entity is complying with the regulations.”