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Despite Uncertainty, Capital Region Gym Prepares To Reopen

Individual workout spaces are taped off at ABC Sports & Fitness in Latham, NY.
Facebook: ABC Sports & Fitness
Individual workout spaces are taped off at ABC Sports & Fitness in Latham, NY.

Following a meeting with New York state officials Tuesday afternoon, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy announced that malls, gyms and movie theaters have not yet been cleared to reopen under phase four of the state’s coronavirus reopening plan. If health metrics hold, the Capital Region would enter that phase on July 1. 

Earlier in the day, WAMC's spoke with Matt Doheny, general manager of ABC Sports & Fitness in Latham. Doheny said his gym has been preparing to reopen, but hasn’t received specific health guidelines from the state.

Doheny: So there will be, we have not received them yet. It seems like they're typically giving them out about a day or two notice in advance of reopening. But because we are so late in the phases, we've been able to see what other businesses and what other guidelines have been issued. So we've been able to adjust and basically pre-prepare ourselves. We have an entire reopening playbook here at the gym so we are ready to rock as soon as we can.

Levulis: What are some of the plays in that playbook?

Doheny: So it depends on what the guidelines specifically come from the governor's office but particularly for us we you know spacing the machines having social distancing throughout the gym. We're going to be watching the capacity of the gym to make sure that we still be able to maintain a percentage of whatever overall occupancy is whether it's 25% or 50%. Educating our staff on COVID-19 Prevention's taking temperatures of the members, we have all these sanitizing stations located throughout the gym. And on every single machine in the club is the disinfectant and bottle towels to wipe the machines down. And then we also have new dividers in between our cardio machines. So we can still have people work out safely, but still be able to have everyone come into the gym depending on the accuracy that they let us.

Levulis: Matt, experts say COVID-19 is transmitted most enclosed environments without a ton of airflow. How was your gym handling that specifically?

Doheny: So what actually works really well with our landlord has given us some great recirculation units throughout the gym. They're also filtered as well. So the air is constantly being filtered that runs to the gym. So these HVAC units that they have on our roof.

Levulis: You mentioned you haven't received specific guidelines from New York State yet. Has there been communication between your gym in the state at all as far as how this pandemic has progressed and the potential reopening?

Doheny: Sadly not they've really left businesses in the dark. Like specifically the day that we had the closure, which was March 16. We found out through a tweet for the governor's office, there's no inside business information or email chains like some people might think we know just as much information as the public does. You know, again, the day we close we found out through a tweet not through an email through a phone call through nothing. Just we found out a Tweet at 10 a.m. that we had to close at 8 p.m. and it's been about the same for the reopening we just have to keep watching the websites and you know, see what's out there for the information but nothing direct to the actual businesses or business owners.

Levulis: Since that shutdown, has the gym had to lay off any employees or take other financial actions during the shutdown? 

Doheny: We did have to furlough our employees but we are bringing everyone back as soon as we will to reopen. And luckily for we were in good financial strains to be able to weather the storm.

Levulis: What has the gym done in the interim? Obviously, I know there's been a lot of virtual fitness classes have they've been available on the internet sometimes now going live what is ABC Sports and Fitness done?

Doheny: Lots of virtual classes. We have been blessed with some of the best group instructors in the area. And they've all been volunteering their time and constantly either doing it on a personal level through at home through a virtual classes or coming into the gym, and using our studios to do some virtual classes for our members. And they were absolutely free of charge to anyone there on our YouTube page. So you don't have to necessarily be a member of our club, but anyone in the world can watch. Our instructors teach a class through a wide variety of classes with zoom but yoga floaties we have them all in it's free for anyone.

Levulis: Matt, are you worried at all about potential liability issues or lawsuits if someone were to get sick as a result of coming back to the gym?

Doheny: Oh, absolutely. That should be on every business owner’s mind as to the liability behind if someone either gets sick in our gym or brings it into our gym. But that's why we're also trying to be overly prepared to make sure that doesn't happen by screening the members as they come in with temperatures and sanitizing them as they walk in. And, and also just making sure that while they're in our club, everybody is either wearing the mass depending on what the regulations are, or socially distancing, we're going to truly go above and beyond to make sure that we can try and as best as possible to make sure it doesn't happen inside our facility.

Levulis: And then are there any specific tips you want to offer to folks who might be coming back into your gym, just, you know, actions that they can take to keep themselves safe?

Doheny: Well, obviously, personal hygiene is very stressed right now. And I think that's something we should all be doing. You know, obviously the cleaning the sanitizing of our personal self or clothes, but just also making sure that if you do have any of the symptoms are not feeling right, that you are self-quarantining and staying home and not going out into public.

Jim is WAMC’s Associate News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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