STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — It was a tough start for Chris Bello, who expanded his Huguenot fitness facility on Oct.1 during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
So when he was shut down less than two months after re-opening, due to his gym, Real Fitness, being located in an orange zone, he was worried for his survival.
However, after Gov. Andrew Cuomo said gyms, and personal care businesses can reopen in orange zones — which includes the South Shore — on Monday, Bello is now more optimistic about the future.
“We’ve been through so many changes this year. We are a new gym that’s been battling to stay alive,” said Bello.
“I’ve been in constant contact with most of my members. We are a tight knit group — more like a family. These people who train here dedicate their lives to this; they come here to have a healthy mind, body and soul. Shutting down gyms affects people just as much mentally as physically, and I will do everything it takes to keep these doors open,” he added.
And Bello may get his wish. Thanks to new data cited by Cuomo, the coronavirus isn’t easily spread at gyms and personal care businesses that follow the state’s protocol.
UPDATED RULES FOR GYMS AND SALONS
At the same time he closed indoor dining in New York City — effective on Monday — Cuomo said gyms and personal care businesses shuttered two weeks ago on the South Shore when it was deemed an orange zone, can reopen.
Gyms and fitness centers — which are currently closed in orange zones — will be allowed to operate at 25% capacity, reduced from 33%, according to the new guidance. Personal care services — for example, salons and barbershops currently closed in orange zones — will be allowed to provide services as long as employees performing services are tested for COVID-19 on a weekly basis, and obtain a negative test result prior to opening, according to the state.
“Gyms and personal care services were originally higher risk environments for viral transmission, but the state’s latest data shows that the rate of spread has been reduced in businesses that are operating in accordance with the Department of Health’s New York Forward guidance,” said the state in a press release.
However, it’s still illegal to have indoor gym classes in New York City, according to city coronavirus mandates.
Cuomo said new metrics have been developed by the state by which micro-cluster focus zones will be identified to help control COVID-19 spread and protect hospital capacity.
“We have been setting rules that make sense for everyone, and it is basically all common sense. We invested very heavily in doing COVID testing, and we do more testing than any state in the nation. That gives us actual facts that we can base our actions upon,” Cuomo said.
“This is not high science we’re applying here—these are common-sense rules. Where the virus is highest, you have to take action. We’re changing rules for the hospitals in the state. We’ve already announced that all hospitals have to do a 25% increase in staffed beds. Hospitals must remain under 85%, either by adding up to 25% of beds, reducing or eliminating elective surgeries, or both. We’re also calibrating the risk level of the economic activity to ensure we are respecting public health, while limiting economic disruption to the extent possible. This pandemic has required us to stay nimble from the very beginning, and we will continue to follow the data to make smart, informed decisions,” he added.
UPDATED ZONE METRICS
As New York has grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor and state Department of Health have made it a priority to continuously calibrate the metrics governing restrictions.
Under these updated metrics, micro-cluster zones will now be determined as follows:
A red zone will be implemented in a region where hospital capacity is within 21 days of reaching 90%, even after the cancellation of elective procedures and a 50% increase in bed capacity in hospitals in the region.
A geographic area will be eligible to enter an orange zone if it has a 4% positivity rate (7-day average) over the last 10 days and it is located in a region that has reached 85% hospital capacity. Alternatively, a geographic area may also become an orange zone if the State Department of Health determines the area or region’s rate of hospital admissions is “unacceptably high” and a zone designation is appropriate to control the rate of growth.
A geographic area will be eligible to enter a yellow zone if it has a 3% positivity rate (7-day average) over the past 10 days and is in the top 10% in the state for hospital admissions per capita over the past week, and is experiencing week-over-week growth in daily admissions.
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