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Town officials, gym owners call for safe reopening of fitness centers

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As New York State continues with its phased reopening, fitness centers keep getting pushed off the list. Several local gym owners, along with town officials, have said they are ready to reopen safely and want the chance to do so as soon as possible.

Originally slated to be included with the personal care portion of the Phase 3 reopening, which started on June 24 in Nassau County, gyms were then moved to Phase 4, which begins July 8. Last week, however, Gov. Cuomo took them off the list, saying that the state is conducting further studies on how the coronavirus droplets spread and if they could be spread through ventilation systems in crowded spaces. On Monday, Town of Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin and other town officials highlighted the importance of fitness centers and the measures some sports center owners have taken to ensure safe use of their facilities. Clavin was joined by Councilman Anthony D’Esposito, Town Clerk Kate Murray, Village of Rockville Centre Mayor Francis X. Murray and owners of local gyms at a news conference outside of Sportset in Rockville Centre to call for a collaboration of state and local health officials, government leaders and business owners to get the facilities opened safely in the near future.

“Fitness and sports clubs are suffering right now because they cannot open up,” Clavin said. “And they have a plan. They have spent thousands of dollars on initiatives to open and keep residents safe, and do it in a way that will ensure we don’t have a second wave.”

He said he is asking the governor to work with the local counties and local townships to allow these businesses to reopen.

“It’s time that the state give us a helping hand here – team up with the Nassau County Board of Health and get inspections done,” Clavin said. “There is a means to get where we need to be.”

He said that facilities such as Sportset and G2 Training in Syosset have been planning for reopening since the start of the pandemic, and that these facilities are important because they help keep people healthy.

Dennison Silvio, owner of Sportset, said his center has taken the safety of the facility “very seriously” since the beginning of the pandemic. He said the center implemented social distancing measures by moving equipment around and increasing sanitation protocols, even before the shutdown began. Since then, Sportset purchased a hydro-electric vapor machine to clean and disinfect the facility, and has taken numerous steps to both ensure the cleanliness and safety of the facility, including investing in ultra-violet technology and installing it in the HVAC system of all 15 units in the 35,000-square-foot facility. The facility has also installed various touchless technologies as well as an app that allows them to control the number of people in each room, and trace them later on. He noted that even insurance companies have recognized the importance of fitness on overall health, and the state should recognize their importance as well.

“Gyms are essential,” Silvio said. “Fitness helps people relieve their stress, it combats high blood pressure, diabetes, muscular dystrophy, and obesity.”

D’Esposito said there has been a lot of confusion surrounding the changes in the plans for reopening fitness studios, but that each facility should be looked at individually.

“There’s been so much misinformation,” D’Esposito said. “These business owners have invested tens of thousands of dollars to make their facilities safe. And we want to keep everyone safe and healthy, but every facility considered a gym shouldn’t be painted with a broad brush. There are a lot of different things offered by different gyms, and they’ve all taken steps. So let’s work together to open up as many businesses as we possibly can. Our residents need to be able to utilize their gyms, not only for their physical health, but, definitely in these times, their mental health.”

George Mifsud and Gregoria Myer, owners of G2 Training, reiterated the councilman’s points.

“That’s our number one gripe – we’re being thrown into this umbrella of all gyms. We are a fitness center, but we’re not an open gym,” Mifsud said, noting they can control the number of people who come into their facility by scheduling appointments with clients. “We were not even afforded the opportunity to demonstrate that we can reopen our facility in a controlled, safe manner.”

“Not only are our businesses suffering, but our clients are suffering as well,” Myer said. “We are caregivers. We support the physical and mental health of our clients. Stress, anxiety and depression are real for people right now and working out is an outlet.”