NEW YORK CITY (WROC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave an update on the coronavirus response efforts in New York Monday, saying that the state’s pandemic progress continues to trend in a positive direction.
“Right now New York has one of the lowest infection rates in the country,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Our infection positivity rate was 0.7%. That is the lowest it has been since this began so that is really great news. Right now we are averaging 1% or under since June, and that is exactly where we want to be.”
The governor announced gym protocol for reopening, saying occupancy would be restricted to 33% per facility, and have HVAC systems with MERV-13 filters, which is the same sort of filtration malls needed before they could reopen.
The governor also said masks are mandated at all times in gyms, which can reopen as soon as August 24, but localities must reopen by September 2, following local inspection. There will lso be sign-in and sign-out protocol for easier contact tracing and temperature checks, according to Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa.
“Localities can also determine whether or not the gym has classes inside of it,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Localities can decide whether or not those class can be undertaken. Local government will make the decision in the jurisdiction and the local health department must inspect before or within two weeks.”
The governor said gyms present a specific challenge in terms of reopening safely.
“If it’s not done right, it can be a problem, and we’ve seen that [with gyms],” Gov. Cuomo said. “I would not say it is the hardest, but it is an area of concern.”
Guidance for Gyms and Fitness Centers
- Capacity: 33% occupancy limit.
- Access: Sign-in with contact information and health screening required.
- PPE: Appropriate face coverings required at all times.
- Distancing: 6 feet of separation at all times.
- 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.
- Classes: By appointment/reservation only; maximum class capacity capped at number of people that can adhere to the 6-feet social distancing rules, but in no case more than 33% 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- Inspection: Local health departments shall inspect before or within two weeks of the gym/fitness center opening to ensure compliance.
On schools, the governor reiterated that parents and teachers need to be part of the reopening process.
“It is going to be the parents and the teachers, and I’m telling you I’ve spoken to hundreds of parents and teachers, there are many questions they have and these are good questions,” Gov. Cuomo said. “If you look around, opening schools has been proven problematic.
“If the parent is not going to send their child, it doesn’t matter what date you pick or what plan you have,” Gov. Cuomo said. “You have to makes sure the parents and the teachers are comfortable and confident with it.”
The governor said the state maintains the authority to close a school if there is an outbreak.
“If a school district does open and there is a COVID spread, the state will close the school,” Gov. Cuomo said. “If something happens and there’s a spread, the state will close the schools, but we don’t want to get to that point. That’s exactly what we want to avoid, that’s why the how and when are so important.”
The governor says reopening schools will be difficult, and that districts will have to act quickly when they need to on address issues in the era of coronavirus.
“There’s going to be a child who is positive, just as a matter of math,” Gov. Cuomo said. “What happens, how quickly did you find that positive child, how good are you with the contact tracing? That’s going to make the difference.”
The governor spoke about his scheduled address at the virtual Democratic National Convention.
“I’m going to speak about the national crisis that we are in,” Gov. Cuomo said. “COVID, in many ways, was the symptom and not the illness. The COVID virus showed us how weak we were and unprepared we were and divided we were. I say in the speech it takes a strong body to resist the virus. When does the virus wreak havoc? When the body is weak, and America’s body politic is weak, we are divided. Our government was not ready to respond. Ask yourself, when was the last time government was as essential as it is today?”
The governor spoke about the increase in shootings across the state, including here in Rochester where shootings with injuries are up 54% from this time last year.
“Very little has been done,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Today I’m sending a letter to 500 jurisdictions in New York State that has a police department and the letter is explaining that it is imperative that we address this urgent crisis. I understand it’s complicated, I understand it’s difficult I also understand people are dying. Denial is not a successful life strategy — not in government not in your personal life.
“The relationship is frayed, the relationship is based on trust and respect, and the relationship is fractured, but divorce is not an option here,” Gov. Cuomo said.
On Friday, the governor announced that on Monday, bowling alleys would be allowed to open.
“Given the progress we’ve made, bowling alleys can reopen Mondays,” Gov. Cuomo said. “50% occupancy, must have a face covering, every other lane closed.”
The governor said parties must stick to their lanes, businesses must have disinfecting protocol, add that food and drink service was only to be conducted by wait staff.
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.