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Schenectady Dem Introduces Gym-Opening Bill

It may not do much good, but a Schenectady Democrat has introduced legislation to reopen indoor activities at gyms and fitness centers.

A.10859, sponsored by Assemblyman Phil Steck, D-Schenectady, would amend the state’s General Business Law and place county health departments in charge of reopening gyms and fitness centers.

Local Health Department officials will review each individual plan for demonstrated safety and may require additional guidelines for improved safety. To reopen for indoor activities, the region where the health club is located shall be in Phase Four or beyond of the NY Forward plan and have an infection rate of no more than 5% of the population of that region. Additionally, health clubs could only allow patrons who live in the same area as the health club’s location, clubs will be sanitized every 24 hours and all individuals and gym users will complete a COVID-19 questionnaire and have their temperature taken before entering the building.

“As New York state enters Phase 4 of reopening, indoor activities at health clubs such as fitness centers and gyms have not been included in this phase,” Steck wrote in his legislative justification. “Due to the highly contagious nature of COVID-19, safe reopening of these facilities are especially challenging because the kinds of activities they provide vary widely and therefore require individualized reopening plans for each facility. The best entity to review individualized reopening plans are county departments of health. This legislation provides a basic framework for the reopening of indoor activities at health clubs, fitness centers and gyms, but recognizes county health departments as the sole reopening authority and identifies them as the best entity to review and approve individual reopening plans.”

Companion legislation has yet to be introduced in the state Senate, and it’s unclear if the state Legislature is returning to debate legislation between now and the end of the year.

Gyms were supposed to be allowed to reopen when regions reached Phase 4, but the governor has kept fitness centers closed. Last week during a news conference Cuomo pointed to states that reopened gyms and then closed them again when COVID-19 infections increased again.

“We know gyms are highly problematic,” Cuomo said. “We know from the other states, they opened them and they had to close them.”

The New York Fitness Coalition, which includes 5,000 industry members and more than 700 gyms, is suing Cuomo as part of a $500 million class-action lawsuit filed by the Mermigis Law Group in state Supreme Court recently. The lawsuit claims gyms and fitness centers have lost hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and have had to lay off at least 70,000 employees throughout the state as a result of the continued shutdown resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The unequal, random, arbitrary and unfair treatment has continued in the reopening guidance,” the lawsuit states. “Tattoo parlors, tanning salons, health spas and dentists are allowed to open their doors, but gyms remain locked down.”

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