Gov. Andrew Cuomo said bowling alleys, gyms, museums and other low-risk entertainment can open in the near future.
Bowling alleys, gyms, museums and other low-risk indoor cultural venues will soon be allowed to open in New York with strict COVID-19 rules, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.
Bowling alleys will be allowed to open Monday, being limited to 50% of occupancy capacity and other rules, such as bowlers must have a face covering and every other lane will remain closed. Food and alcohol service will also be limited to wait service.
The opening date and rules for gyms will be revealed on Monday, Cuomo said.
Museums, aquariums and other low-risk indoor cultural venues will be allowed to open in New York City on Aug. 24 with various COVID-19 restrictions, including operating at 25% occupancy capacity. In upstate communities, museums and other indoor venues opened previously.
Cuomo said the openings are connected to New York's low infection rate, which has hovered below 1% over the past seven days.
"Given the results that we have and given the progress we’ve made, we’re going to make some changes and adjustments," he said, referring to the openings.
The announcement came after gym and bowling alley owners have pleaded with Cuomo to allow them to reopen. They have been closed since March, when New York shuttered many businesses to slow the spread of coronavirus, which has killed more than 25,200 New Yorkers, the most in the nation.
Gyms had been slated to reopen in Phase 4 of the state's COVID-19 reopening process, which many communities outside New York City reached in late June.
But Cuomo kept gyms closed, citing ongoing concerns about how droplets infected with the coronavirus can be inadvertently spread via air conditioning in crowded indoor spaces.
At the time, Cuomo also delayed the reopening of malls in part based on the same concerns about air ventilation. But he allowed malls to reopen in communities outside New York City in early July, only if they have high-efficiency venting systems capable of reducing the spread of COVID-19.
More than 2,000 fitness-related businesses in New York have since joined in a class-action lawsuit against the state tied to the delayed reopening. The suit seeks to force New York to allow gyms and related indoor fitness operations to open immediately, as well as financial damages for the time they had to stay closed.
Gym owners and local officials this week ramped up the pressure on Cuomo, holding press briefings and rallies to outline their plans for operating safely during the pandemic.
Yet some health experts have said others states that moved too quickly to reopen indoor businesses, including gyms, without sufficient safeguards helped fuel the resurgence of COVID-19 unfolding across much of the country.
Bill Lia, chair of New York State Fitness Alliance, which represents 2,000 fitness facilities, issued a statement Friday thanking Cuomo for "reopening the economy in an intelligent way."
“The fitness industry is ready to reopen safely, with proper protocols in place to protect our employees and members," Lia said.
"We look forward to providing New Yorkers access to safe fitness facilities so they can advance their physical and mental health,” he added.
USA TODAY Network reporters Jon Campbell, Nancy Haggerty and Michael P. McKinney contributed to this report.