Gov. Andrew Cuomo said bowling alleys can reopen in New York beginning Monday -- and he said he’s issuing guidelines to allow gyms to reopen in the near future.
The venues have been closed since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic-related shutdown, and remained closed even though every region of the state entered the final phase of the reopening process over a month ago.
Cuomo said the bowling alleys can be back in business Monday, with restrictions.
“Fifty percent occupancy, you must have a face covering, every other lane closed,” said Cuomo.
The bowling alleys will need to have cleaning and disinfecting protocols in place, especially on the shared rental equipment, including bowling balls and shoes.
Food and drinks can be offered, as long as servers bring the items directly to the parties’ bowling lane.
There is no set date for gyms to reopen, but the governor said rules will be released on how they can do so safely.
“We will put our protocols on Monday for gymnasiums to open,” Cuomo said.
The announcement is welcome news for gym owners and proprietors of yoga studios and other fitness centers. Some held a news conference Thursday to say the state could not keep them shuttered indefinitely, and that they were losing millions of dollars and thousands of jobs. About 1,500 gyms have filed a lawsuit over the continued closures.
The New York State Fitness Alliance thanked Cuomo for acting.
“The fitness industry is ready to reopen safely, with proper protocols in place to protect our employees and members," the group's chair, Bill Lia, said in a statement. "We look forward to providing New Yorkers access to safe fitness facilities so they can advance their physical and mental health.”
Museums have been open upstate but closed in New York City. Cuomo said they can now open at 25% capacity on Aug. 24. Aquariums will also be allowed to open. Both types of venues will only be accessible by ticketed, timed entries, and face coverings will be required.
There’s no word on when movie theaters might be allowed to reopen.
The governor also addressed the issue of increased mail-in voting in November’s elections. He said it’s likely that he will sign a bill passed by the State Legislature to authorize COVID-19 as a reason to request an absentee ballot.
“I think mail-in is the smartest way,” he said.
There’s concern over efforts by President Donald Trump’s postmaster general appointee to slow down the mail in advance of elections, and Trump told Fox Business News that he opposes giving funds to the U.S. Postal Service because he wants to restrict Americans from voting by mail.
Cuomo endorsed an idea, discussed at a legislative hearing on the election earlier in the week, of creating more ballot drop boxes at polling sites. Voters could then deposit their ballots without using the mail.
“Either at a polling site, or in front of a polling site,” said Cuomo, who said voters worried about density or potential exposure to the coronavirus would not have to go into the polling place at all.
“Why not?” he said. “We know how to make boxes.”
The governor’s comments come on a day when the rate of transmission of the virus was 0.85%, and over 85,000 tests were conducted on Thursday. It’s the seventh day in a row that the state’s infection rate has been below 1%. Four New Yorkers died of COVID-19 on Thursday.