Fitness centers and gyms will be able to reopen indoor operations on Sept. 1 at 25 percent reduced capacity and with face coverings required, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Wednesday.
Gyms were required to shutter their doors in mid-March as the COVID-19 pandemic began to surge across the state. Upward of 50,000 gym employees have been out of work since then.
The planned Sept. 1 reopening was first reported by NJ Advance Media and confirmed by the governor’s office Wednesday morning.
“Gyms are among the most challenging indoor environments to prevent COVID-19 transmission,” Murphy said at his Wednesday afternoon COVID-19 press conference in Trenton. “But, given where we are in this fight, we believe we are ready to take the next step forward.”
Gyms have been allowed to operate at a highly reduced capacity, permitted to offer individual training sessions by appointment only since the end of June.
Under the executive order that Murphy said he will sign Wednesday, group fitness centers are limited to one person per 200 square feet, and equipment must frequently be sanitized and be spaced 6 feet apart.
“This may mean that only every other treadmill will be available for use and only equipment that could be properly sanitized between usage should be made available,” the governor said.
Gyms must maintain logs off all staff and customers so that, according to Murphy, “should a positive test be received by someone who’s in a gym, our contact tracers can get right to work notifying any gym-goers who were in there with them.”
Additional guidance will come from the state health department, as well as the executive order itself.
“We will continue to collaborate with local, county and state health officials to ensure that our members can work out again in a safe, clean, and welcoming environment, and our staff can get back to work,” former New Hampshire Gov. Craig Benson, and a Planet Fitness board member, said in a statement.
Murphy has defended keeping gyms closed, arguing that with a lack of ventilation, the virus could easily spread.
“You’ve got sweating, grunting, you’ve got a lot of stuff going on which not only are you indoors, close,” he said at a late June press briefing.
Gyms were allowed to reopen in Philadelphia at reduced capacity in mid-July, while they’ll be able to reopen in New York City on Sept. 2, also with reduced capacity.
Indoor amusements can also reopen beginning Sept. 1, an allowance that would extend to American Dream, which has an indoor amusement and water park, and the iPlay America Indoor Amusement Center in Freehold, according to Murphy. But, whether they choose to do so at that time would be their call, he added.
Restaurant groups, meanwhile, are still pushing for a resumption of indoor dining. They’ve been allowed to offer outdoor dining since June 15, but restaurant owners worry the approaching cold weather could render outdoor dining fruitless.
Responding to rumors that indoor dining would resume by Sept. 15, on Wednesday Murphy said “I hope it’s before then,” adding that the service and indoor movie theaters would likely reopen at the same time.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 2:25 on Aug. 26, 2020, following the governor’s official announcement on the reopening of gyms to include additional information and remarks.