What to Know
- New Jersey gyms, health clubs and indoor amusement facilities can reopen Tuesday, Sept. 1 at 25 percent capacity, Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday; masks will also be required
- The long-awaited announcement comes two days after gyms in the neighboring state of New York were permitted to reopen under strict guidelines, including mandatory COVID-related inspections
- Gym reopenings in New York City have been delayed as officials prioritize school inspections, with in-person classes scheduled to resume in two weeks. It plans to begin reopening gyms on Sept. 2
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy says gyms in his state can reopen Sept. 1 at 25 percent capacity. Masks will be required, among other COVID precautions. Health clubs and indoor amusement facilities can also open then. Will indoor dining be next?
The governor made the long-awaited gym announcement early Wednesday, two days after gyms in neighboring New York were permitted to reopen under strict guidelines. The New Jersey reopenings will also come with clear restrictions:
- Group fitness classes limited to 1 person per 200 square feet
- Mandatory masks at all times for patrons and staff
- Contact logs for members and staff for tracing purposes in the event of an outbreak or other COVID exposure concern
- Six feet between equipment; intense equipment sanitizing protocol
"Gyms are among the most challenging indoor environments to prevent COVID-19 transmission. But, given where we are in this fight, we believe we are ready to take the next step forward," Murphy said. "Thank you to our many gym owners and gym members who have helped us crush the curve."
New Jersey battled a brief uptick in virus transmission rates over the last month or so, but it stood at 0.8 as of Wednesday, below the 1-plus threshold, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo classifies as an outbreak. New York, meanwhile, is in the midst of a 19-day streak of daily positive COVID test rates below 1 percent.
In the Empire State, capacity for gyms is capped at 33 percent for now, though Cuomo says his team may dial that number back if needed. Masks are also required for indoor workouts in New York. Local governments were told to make the call on whether indoor fitness classes and pools would return along with the reopening of gyms, so that component varies.
In New York City, officials have been prioritizing school inspections, with the scheduled start date to (some) in-person classes just two weeks away. Teams of inspectors are hitting every school in the city for safety and ventilation checks. Those teams are making sure windows can open and new air conditioning filters are in place, with 375 buildings already done — and more than 1,400 to go by next week.
Mayor Bill de Blasio tagged along for at Bronx Collaborative High School Tuesday afternoon for some of those inspections, and stopped to hear concerns from parents, 70 percent of whom at the school want to sent their children back to classes in person.
"I think there were some very powerful moments in that discussion about the larger meaning of a school to a family," de Blasio said. "And what it means to be with teachers and educators and staff who care about the kids and are there to uplift the kids. That nothing replaces that human contact, that support, that love."
The mayor says the city will start inspecting gyms, which is required before or within two weeks of reopening, to ensure COVID protocol compliance Sept. 2. Gyms across the five boroughs will also begin to reopen at that time, though the mayor has said indoor classes and pools will be off the table for now.
With the question of gyms now answered, just one major reopening question remains: Indoor dining. Murphy has yet to set a date for the return of indoor dining, which he postponed indefinitely days before it was set to resume amid heightened national concerns about increased exposure risk. New York City also has indefinitely delayed indoor dining, while the rest of the state has resumed it.
Daily Percentage of Positive Tests by New York Region
Gov. Andrew Cuomo breaks the state into 10 regions for testing purposes and tracks positivity rates to identify potential hotspots. Here's the latest tracking data by region and for the five boroughs. For the latest county-level results statewide, click here
NYC Inspects Schools' Ventilation as Safety Concerns Over Reopening Mount
A hundred teams of inspectors are rushing to inspect thousands of New York City classrooms to ensure that proper ventilation is in place to keep students and staff safe from COVID-19. The clock is ticking, with 15 days to go before school starts.
Firefighters and building inspectors will be installing 10,000 air filters in more than thousands of classrooms across the city's five boroughs before school begins on Sept. 10. They're going classroom door to classroom door to open any windows and if there's no way for air to properly circulate in a classroom or school building, no one will be permitted to use that space, Mayor de Blasio and School Chancellor Richard Carranza said Monday.
Samya Chavez is among more than 300,000 parents who have already opted their children out of in-person learning this fall.
"It's for their safety. As long as there's no vaccine around, as a parent, I'm very scared. So I'm going to keep my kids at home," said Chavez said.
Last week, the city's biggest teachers' union threatened to strike if schools reopen under the mayor's current plan, which the union president says lacks specifics and transparency. The United Federal of Teachers on Tuesday said ventilation was among the issues the union highlighted in its checklist for safe school reopening released last week.
"Even before our press conference, UFT teams had begun checking every school building for ventilation and other safety problems. Those inspections are continuing," the union's spokesperson said in a statement. UFT President Mike Mulgrew has yet to sign off on any plan after he said no school should open unless it meets all the criteria outside in the union's safety checklist, which covers a range of topics from PPE to ventilation.
Meanwhile, more than 200 principals of the city's 1,700-plus public schools have applied to hold classes outdoor, such as in schoolyards and parks, after de Blasio announced the plan to do so with less than three weeks to go.
“Though the idea of outdoor learning has real merit, the city’s plan will not be implemented nearly as well as it could have been if the mayor had simply given principals the time and support they need,” Mark Cannizzaro, the president of the union that represents city school principals, said in a statement earlier this week.
The Council of School Supervisors & Administration is now also calling for a delay to the start of the school year.
Tracking Coronavirus in Tri-State
Principals in the Bronx on Tuesday expressed additional concerns when it comes to outdoor learning. They sent a letter to City Hall, expressing their worries about the recent spike in shootings near schools.
"How are we going to safeguard our students and staff from events that are out of our control due to high crime in the area? We have yet to hear a plan to address this concern," the letter read.
In response, a spokesperson for the mayor said, “We know this is an incredibly difficult time for school leaders across the city. We’re continuing to work with our union partners to guarantee a successful reopening and will not rest until every single school has what they need to begin the school year safely.”