By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Assignment Editor
Editor’s Note: This story was updated on September 8 to reflect the New Jersey administrative order regarding health and fitness facilities located in hotels, corporate campuses, and other businesses.
TRENTON, N.J. — Governor Phil Murphy has signed an executive order that will allow gyms, health clubs, and indoor amusement facilities to reopen at 25% capacity on September 1, according to the New Jersey Department of Health.
Although they’ll be allowed to reopen after being closed for months amid the coronavirus pandemic, gyms and fitness centers will have to adhere to a number of safety guidelines. Group fitness classes will have to operate at one person per 200 square feet in a given room, and both patrons and staff members will have to wear face masks at all times while indoors. Equipment has to be spaced out by six feet and sanitized frequently.
All fitness centers and facilities will have to keep logs of who enters and exits the building in order to assist with contact tracing if someone who participates later tests positive for the coronavirus.
An administrative order signed on September 8 by Murphy and State Police Superintendent Colonel Pat Callahan clarified that health club centers located within businesses such as hotels, motels, condo developments, cooperatives, and corporate offices are also allowed to reopen. They, like dedicated health and fitness centers such as your local YMCA, will be required to adhere to coronavirus-related safety regulations.
“I think we all recognize how important exercise is for good physical and mental health, so we’re excited to offer residents the opportunity to get back to gyms,” Department of Health commissioner Judy Persichilli said on Wednesday. “Given the risk of transmission, however, associated with exercising indoors, it’s important that both gym owners and customers abide by health and safety guidelines very closely. We know that the virus spreads through the air via respiratory droplets — especially in confined spaces — and when people are working out, they tend to breathe more rapidly and deeply, which causes them to expel more [respiratory] droplets.”
Persichilli referenced a study from South Korea that found more than 100 people were infected with COVID-19 after attending exercise classes. She once again urged gym owners and employees to strictly adhere to safety guidelines and sanitize their equipment and facilities frequently.
Tuesday’s executive order is another step on New Jersey’s path to reopening — but other recreational facilities like movie theaters remain closed to the public. Restaurants are currently not allowed to operate indoor dining, but outdoor dining is currently permitted. Gov. Murphy initially moved to reopen limited-capacity indoor dining in June, but he reversed that decision shortly afterward, citing an increase in coronavirus cases throughout the state as the reason for the reversal.
At his coronavirus briefing on Wednesday, Gov. Murphy said that he hopes to have “some” indoor dining reopened by the middle of September. He’s also hopeful that movie theaters will be allowed to reopen in the state around that time.
Throughout the pandemic, many local fitness centers in South Jersey helped community members stay active while they were closed with innovative online and outdoor classes.
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