Murphy to allow gyms to reopen for indoor workouts Sept. 1
In a brief message on his social media Wednesday morning Gov. Phil Murphy said New Jersey gyms will be allowed to open on Tuesday.
"Gyms may reopen at 25% capacity as of Tuesday, September 1st. Masks will be required," read Murphy's message. He is expected to announce more details at his Wednesday coronavirus briefing.
Murphy hinted at Monday's briefing that he hoped to take "at least some steps, baby steps or otherwise, to get indoors."
Murphy has held off opening up gyms and indoor dining, and declined to cite specific benchmarks that would have to be met before either could happen. Up until now the governor has said it was "too risky" to be indoors in areas where one is one spot for long periods of time in poorly ventilated areas.
Murphy first shut indoor gyms along with most retail and several other businesses in March, in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Earlier this summer, he allowed them to reopen for personal training by appointment only.
There will be restrictions on the size of indoor group activities, mask must be worn at all times, equipment must be six feet or more apart, and gym attendees must sign forms that say they'll follow safety rules, according to the governor's office. Gyms will also have to keep logs of workers and clients to help with contact tracing in the event of an outbreak.
“The health and safety of our members, our staff, and the local communities we serve is inherent to our mission and values. We want to thank Governor Murphy for working with us so that we can safely reopen with strict guidelines in place, which will empower us to help our members improve their physical and mental health during these challenging times," William Olson, a Planet Fitness franchise owner who operates 18 gyms in New Jersey said in a statement. "Investing in the health and safety of our communities is the most important role we play and we will always treat that with the seriousness it deserves.”
Gyms in neighboring Pennsylvania have been open since June. New York State allowed them to reopen on Monday.
The state's clashes with the defiant Atilis Gym in Bellmawr have made national headlines, with the gym refusing to stay closed despite the governor's executive orders, health department orders, court orders and the loss of its business license. The gym in recent weeks has been fined in excess of $15,000 a day for each day it remained open.
Kevin McHugh, CEO of The Atlantic Clubs in Manasquan and Red Bank, was part of the New Jersey Fitness Alliance lead by Leslie and Mike Epstein, which said they put in “hundreds of hours” coming up with a way to safely reopen gyms for indoor workouts.
“I think the governor and his team had a plan in place that was based on the numbers reaching the levels they needed to reach. There were certain parameter they were looking at; we in the industry were looking at many others. It took a while for all that to come together,” McHugh said.
McHugh said Murphy’s team was watching the rate of transmission and what was happening in states where gyms were open, among other things. It all started to come together in early August.
“I believe the governor and his team really worked with us to see how can we make this work so that the people of New Jersey and our members are safe," he said. "I believe the governor now believes that he is giving health clubs to open because we are safe."
It will be a slow reopen for the Atlantic Club, which McHugh said has had to lay off 700 workers over the past few months.
“When we bring them back, they have all new job descriptions," he said. “Our goal is to really indoctrinate our staff in all the safety things that are required not only for COVID but anything that comes by in the future.”