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Bowling Alleys in NY Can Reopen Monday, Gyms Could be Next After Venues Pressure Cuomo

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Governor Andrew Cuomo says bowling alleys can reopen in New York, beginning Monday - and he says he’s issuing guidelines to allow gyms to reopen in the near future.

The venues have been closed since mid March due to the COVID-19 pandemic related shutdown, and remained closed even though every region of the state entered the final phase of the reopening process over a month ago.

Cuomo says the bowling alleys can be back in business August 17th, with restrictions.

50% occupancy, you must have a face covering, every other lane closed,” said Cuomo.

The bowling alleys will need to have cleaning and disinfecting protocols in place, especially on the shared  rental equipment, including bowling balls and shoes.

Food and drinks can be offered, as long as servers bring the items directly to the parties’ bowling lane.

There is not set date for gyms to reopen, but the governor says rules will be released on how they can do so safely.

We will put our protocols on Monday for gymnasiums to reopen,” Cuomo said.

The announcement is welcome news for gym owners, and proprietors of yoga studios and other fitness centers. Some held a news conference Thursday to say the state could not keep them shuttered indefinitely, and that they were losing millions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

About 1,500 gyms filed a lawsuit over the continued closures.

The New York State Fitness Alliance thanked Cuomo for acting. In a statement, its chair, Bill Lia, said “The fitness industry is ready to reopen safely, with proper protocols in place to protect our employees and members. We look forward to providing New Yorkers access to safe fitness facilities so they can advance their physical and mental health.”

Museums have been open upstate, but closed in New York City. Cuomo says they can now open at 25% capacity on August 24th. Aquariums will also be allowed to open. Both types of venues will only be accessible by ticketed, timed entries.  Face coverings will be required.

There’s no word on when movie theaters might be allowed to reopen.

The governor also addressed the issue of increased mail in voting in November’s election. He says it’s likely that he will sign a bill passed by the legislature to authorize COVID-19 as a reason to request an absentee ballot.

I think mail- in is the smartest way,” he said.

There’s concern over efforts by President Donald Trump’s post master general appointee to slow down the mail in advance of elections, and Trump told Fox Business  News on Friday that he opposes giving funds to the postal service because he wanted restrict Americans from voting  by mail.

Cuomo endorsed an idea, discussed at a legislative hearing on the election earlier in the week, of creating more ballot drop boxes at polling sites. Voters could then deposit their ballots without using the mail.

Either at a polling site, or in front of a polling site,” said Cuomo, who said voters worried about density or potential exposure to the virus would not have to go into the polling place at all.

Why not?” he said. “We know how to make boxes.”

The governor’s comments come on a day when the rate of transmission of the virus was .85% , and over 85,000 tests were conducted Thursday.  It’s the seventh day in a row that the state’s infection rate has been below 1%. Four New Yorkers died of the virus on Thursday.

GYMS, OTHERS APPLY PRESSURE TO CUOMO ADMINISTRATION TO REOPEN

The rate of transmission of the coronavirus in New York State remains low. All regions of the state have been in phase four, the final phase of reopening, for at least a month. But some industries have been left out of those plans and remain closed. Owners of gyms, movie  theaters, bowling alleys and other indoor based businesses  held a news conference to ask why they aren’t allowed to reopen.

Meanwhile, 1,500 gyms in New York have filed a class action lawsuit , demanding that the state offer a reopening plan.

The gyms, yoga studios, and wedding planners, among others, say they’ve lost millions of dollars and have had to lay off hundreds of workers since they were shut down in mid March.

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All Sport Health and Fitness in the Hudson Valley is also offering outdoor classes.

Some, including Kristi Redl, owner of All Sport Health and Fitness in the Hudson Valley, says she’s had to lay off most of her 250 employees. She says she and her sisters, who co-own the business, have invested money in new safety features, including special air purification filters, and closing the locker rooms.

We have redesigned the club,” Redl said, to ensure safe social distancing, adding that they would also perform temperature checks.

Jackie Mangiamele runs Lyceum Cinemas in Red Hook, which has been closed since March. She says the theater has lost over $1 million dollars during the shut down. Lyceum also owns two other movie theaters in Vermont,  which have been open for over  a month with strict safety protocols in place, with no evidence of any virus transmission. She says gatherings are allowed in New York in other venues that might not have taken as many safety steps as her theater intends to do. 

It’s totally insane that in New York, 50 people can attend a public gathering of any legal sort in a moldy old barn, but those same 50 people cannot watch a film in a clean auditorium that has 200 or more chairs,” said Mangiamele. 

The small business owners praised Governor Andrew Cuomo for his efforts in managing the pandemic that has led to New York, once the epicenter of COVID-19 in the nation, now having one of the lowest rates of transmission of any state. But they say he and his staff need to work with them, to give them a date when they can reopen, and help them with safety guidelines.

We are willing to go by any guideline the governor is willing to tell us,” Redl said. “The problem is there has been no communication, He has been radio silent.” 

The news conference was organized by State Senator Sue Serino, a Republican. Duchess County Executive Marc Molinaro also attended. Molinaro ran on the GOP ticket  for governor against Cuomo in 2018. But it’s not just republicans in state government who have expressed concerns. Albany area Assemblywoman Pat Fahy, a Democrat, has also asked that gyms and other closed venues be allowed to safely reopen.

Cuomo speaking on August 6th, continued to express concerns that the gyms, theaters and other venues might not be safe to reopen, calling them “dangerous activities”.

We have some data here. We have experience here. We know gyms are highly problematic, not from our experience because we haven’t open them, but we know from the other states they've been highly problematic. We know from the other states. They opened them and they had to close them.” Cuomo said. “That's a fact.”

Don Murphy, vice president of the New York State Fitness Alliance, says he and the others don’t know of any data that the governor is referring to that shows gyms are unsafe, if social distancing, personal protective equipment, and other measures like increased air filtering are put in place.

We’re not aware of what he is referring to,” said  Murphy  who said the governor should provide the data so that any safety issues can be resolved.

This is about finding solutions,” he said. “Not keeping industries shut down forever.”

Murphy says his group has prepared a multi page plan endorsed by a Chicago based health expert at Loyola University (link) that he says shows the reopening can be done safely.

Cuomo’s budget director Robert Mujica, who is also helping with other duties during the pandemic, says  state officials are reviewing reopening plans sent to them by the gyms.

We're going to continue to look at it, again, we're looking at various alternatives, but right now it's still high risk activity and as we're seeing increases in other states and clusters in other states, we’ll continue to remain closed until we think they could open safely,” Mujica said. 

A spokesman for Cuomo, Jason Conwall, when asked about the data mentioned by the governor, provided a links to numerous accounts of gyms around the country that reopened and caused outbreaks of the virus.