By Aleksandra Michalska
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Before coronavirus shut down the United States, gym re-opening used to mean simply unlocking the front door and greeting the herds squeezed into spandex pants.
Now, as New York gyms gird to re-open as soon as Monday, exercise centers like Chelsea Piers Fitness in Manhattan are upgrading air filters to hospital grade, disinfecting sand on the beach volleyball court, spreading work-out equipment 6 feet apart, and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.
"Reopening is going to be intense. It's going to be tough," said Chelsea Piers trainer Oscar Herrera as preparations to re-open one of the largest gyms in New York City kicked into high gear.
While New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said gyms could reopen with restrictions as early as Monday, hopes of quickly reopening in New York City were dealt a setback by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who said none would reopen before Sept. 2.
State restrictions include limiting admittance to one-third of capacity, temperature checks and wearing masks at all times. Gyms must maintain sign-in sheets to help contact tracers.
New York will join at least 43 states and Washington, D.C., in permitting gyms to reopen to some extent since the coronavirus pandemic forced shutdowns beginning in March, said Meredith Poppler, spokeswoman for the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, a nonprofit trade group.
Last year, 3 million part-time and full-time employees worked in as many as 50,000 health and fitness clubs in the United States, she said.
In New York City alone, some 2,111 gyms employ 86,551 workers.
"We estimate the industry lost $700 million per week during the height of the shutdown, and $7 billion lost through July 1," Poppler said.
Tempers flared over gym shutdowns among those who regularly pump iron to boost health and happiness and shed gained weight, often called the "quarantine 15". In Bellmawr, New Jersey, two owners of Atilis Gym were arrested last month for defying state shutdown orders and their business license was revoked.
At the enormous exercise center located on a Manhattan pier jutting into the Hudson River, Chelsea Piers member Faye Stenning, founder of Grit Coaching, said she was thrilled the gym would be reopening.
"Fitness is a huge part of people's lives," Stenning said.
(Reporting by Aleksandra Michalska; Writing by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)