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Gym Owners Feel ‘Gut Punch’

Erica and David Dix are pictured recently inside Anytime Fitness in West Ellicott. The pair said they were angered by an announcement this week that gyms will not included in Phase Four of the state's reopening guidelines. P-J photo by Eric Tichy

Like a punch in the gut.

That’s how Erica Dix, who with her husband David own and operate Anytime Fitness in West Ellicott, described feeling after learning this week that gyms — along with movie theaters and malls — will not be cleared to reopen when areas of New York state progress to Phase Four beginning Friday.

“Our initial reaction, of course, was first anger, then betrayal, because as far as we’ve been told, Phase Four was the last phase and that it included gyms,” Dix said.

“Being told that they’re not opening gyms is kind of like a gut punch, to say the least.”

Dix said she has heard from countless customers itching to work out. Gyms, like other personal care facilities, closed in mid-March as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the state. Though Chautauqua County has avoided large spikes in coronavirus cases, the area has had to follow state guidelines in allowing businesses to reopen to customers.

“Playgrounds are opened and they are cleaned once a day,” Dix said, noting that gym equipment is cleaned after each use.

Businesses had been hoping Gov. Andrew Cuomo would allow them to open their doors after a three-month shutdown bought on by the pandemic. But the decision, first reported by the Times-Union of Albany, leave owners uncertain of when they will be able to welcome back customers.

A spokesman for Cuomo on Wednesday cited recent surges in states that have allowed a wide range of businesses to reopen.

“There are some things that don’t fit neatly into a phase that are going to require further study and we’re going through that right now. This includes evaluating what’s going on in other states to avoid going backwards,” spokesman Richard Azzopardi wrote in an email.

Areas of the state are phasing in reopenings on different timetables. The Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley, Finger Lakes and North Country could move to Phase Four on Friday, which would allow an easing of restrictions on higher education and “low-risk” arts and entertainment.

County Executive PJ Wendel said it was “disconcerting” to learn of the snub to malls and gyms in the news before being told Tuesday during a control room meeting.

“This is very frustrating,” Wendel said. “I’m right there with them. We thought there was a chance gyms would be in Phase Two. I was advocating for them to be opened in Phase Three. I have spoken at length during our control room meetings and will again today.”

Kyle Stewart, executive director of the Alliance of New York State YMCAs, issued a statement Wednesday, noting his dismay by the “sudden news” that Ys would not permitted to open in the fourth phase.

“For most of our 37 YMCAs statewide who operate 140 locations, this meant a putting a disruptive, and frankly, expensive halt to their reopening plans,” Stewart said. “The consequences of the governor’s action have not only damaged the Y’s fitness operations, but has put the viability of the nonprofit services we deliver to over 1.5 million New Yorkers in jeopardy.

“YMCAs are complex, nonprofit organizations who serve their communities in a variety of ways. We can’t simply flip a switch and reopen, that would be irresponsible and unsafe. As Phase Four drew closer, our YMCAs carefully planned every aspect of reopening to ensure the lowest risk possible to our staff and community. We have been re-training our staff, and preparing to safely welcome our community back.

“YMCAs have been safely running essential services like childcare, food distribution, and housing programs during the pandemic. We know how to operate in a manner that minimizes the risk to our staff and community. Since closing our fitness operations in March, YMCAs have renovated their facilities, adjusted their cleaning protocols, and physically redesigned their spaces in order to create an environment that exceeds the health and safety best practice guidelines from the CDC and Department of Health. At this point, we could write the operational guidelines ourselves.”

3 NEW CASES

Three new cases of COVID-19 were reported Wednesday, bringing the total to date in Chautauqua County to 123. The new cases involve two women and a man in their 20s.

Of the total cases, 56 have been reported in the north county, with 10 in the eastern portion, 23 in the western portion and 34 in the south county.

The county Department of Health said there remains nine active cases of the coronavirus. There are 113 county residents under quarantine/isolation as well as seven deaths and 13,038 negative test results.

DMV OFFICES RESUME OPERATIONS

County Clerk Larry Barmore said all three DMV offices within Chautauqua County will open Monday for full, normal operations. All transactions at that time will be processed in-person at the offices.

In a statement, Barmore said, “We still have a lot of mail-in and drop box transactions that need processing so we are asking that residents discontinue placing transactions in the drop box and bring them into an office for processing. Depending on the amount of work we still have to complete, we may not open all the customer windows for a few days.

“All customers must wear a mask while in the office and a limited number of people will be allowed inside at a time. While waiting outside please keep a 6-foot distance from other customers. Only the person needing the transaction may enter the building. Do not bring your children, neighbors or spouse. The only exception is for under-16 permit testing that requires the presence of a parent.”

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