September 11, 2020
Dear Board Members: AKAM, in connection with various industry resources and leading industry attorneys, is pleased to present the following comprehensive guide to the New York Forward Gym and Fitness Center reopening plan. This guide has been prepared with the most current information to provide Governmental requirements, resources, templates, and best practices as it relates to the reopening of Gyms and Fitness Center within cooperatives and condominiums.
New York City Gyms and Fitness Centers (Fitness Facilities) were permitted to reopen as early as September 2nd, providing the minimum policies and procedures were enacted. At this time, we estimate the approximately 40% of residential gyms are working to reopen their facilities.
Regardless of your anticipated reopening date, the goal of this guide is to provide our client Boards and building stakeholders with the necessary information and resources to implement and execute policies and procedures in accordance with State guidelines subjective to your building’s unique features and resident community culture.
We have organized the guide by the State requirements related to various aspects of the Facility. Due to the stringent nature of the safety requirements surrounding reopening Facilities, additional cleaning and/or administrative staff may be required. The Board may choose to postpone the opening of their Fitness Facilities as there is no requirement to reopen at this time. Additionally, should the Board choose to reopen this amenity, they may implement more stringent protocols and procedures than the State’s requirement, however the building’s legal counsel should review prior to implementation.
Please note that this guide may not include all requirements and considerations the State has set forth for reopening Gyms and Fitness Centers and should be utilized as a reference along with the State’s Interim Guidance for Real Estate Services which can be found in this link: NYS Master Guidance – Gyms and Fitness Centers – As of 8-17-20
Your AKAM Management Executive, along with our Operations Team, is prepared to work with the Boardand your building’s legal counsel to customize reopening policies and procedures, update them as additional information and clarity around requirements are received, and to effectively communicate with your residents. We will continue to monitor government agencies and consult with industry resources and attorneys to provide you with the latest information. This guide is intended to provide the Board withanother layer of support from AKAM as we collectively continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic as it relates to building operations and the health and safety of all building occupants.
The AKAM Team
Section 1 – Physical Plant
The Master Guidance directs minimum standards and requirements surrounding the occupancy, set up, and conditions within the physical plant of any reopened Fitness Facility.
The maximum occupancy of the Facility can be no more than 33% of the maximum occupancy set forth by the certificate of occupancy for that space. This occupancy is inclusive of patrons/residents and staff and should be considered for each room of the Facility separately.
Equipment must be reorganized or restricted (e.g., cardio equipment, free weights, mats, strength training equipment) so that individuals are at least 6 feet apart in all directions and at all times. Equipment may not be shared, and cleaning and disinfection must occur between each individual’s use.
All water fountains must remain closed. Bottle filling stations may continue to be utilized with regular cleaning and disinfection of touch areas.
Provide hand washing stations and hand sanitizer throughout the facility, with applicable signage, and in particular at entrances, exits, and high traffic locations.
Any seating areas (e.g., couches) must be removed or restricted. Self-serve or communal food/beverage are not permitted.
Whirlpools, Saunas, Hammams, & Indoor Pools
The opening of whirlpools, saunas, hammams, or indoor pool facilities is still prohibited per New York City Guidelines.
Air Handling Systems
Central Air Handling SystemsThe central HVAC system must have, at minimum, MERV-13 (or industry equivalent e.g., HEPA) filters installed.
For facilities with central air handling systems that can not handle this required filtration, a specifically certified technician or licensed building engineer must certify and document that the currently installed filter rack and air handling system would be unable to perform to the minimum level of heating and cooling with the regulated filtration installed. This documentation must be retained on site and available for review by state and local health department officials. These facilities must still operate using filters with a lesser filtration rate (ideally MERV-11 or MERV-12) and employ additional ventilation and air filtration mitigation protocols, such as running systems for several hours daily before and after occupancy and for longer hours throughout the day.
It is recommended, particularly for buildings older than 15 years, that fresh/outdoor air ventilation be increased where possible, increasing ventilation rates, and the utilization of ultraviolet germicidal irradiation and/or portable air cleaners.
No Central Air Handling Systems
Facilities which have window units, or no air handling units must employ additional ventilation and air filtration protocols per CDC and ASHRAE recommendations including deploying portable air cleaners; regularly inspecting any applicable window units to ensure they are properly operating, serviced, and within service life; running systems for several hours daily before and after occupancy and for longer hours throughout the day; setting fans to draw air away from occupants and providing for appropriate exhaust, and the utilization of germicidal irradiation.
Section 2 – Operations
The Master Guidance directs minimum standards and requirements surrounding the operations of any reopened Fitness Facility. Your AKAM Management Executive can work with you to establish preliminary procedures which may include limiting facility hours, reservation only protocols, limiting non-residential/guest usage, and the recommended phase-in approach.
Distance Between Individuals
A minimum of 6 feet must be maintained in all directions and between all individuals, including staff and residents.
A minimum of 6 feet must be maintained between any permitted personal trainer and their client, as well as any other patrons within the facility. Training that includes the need for spotting is discouraged. Trainers must clean and disinfect any equipment that they use for demonstration purposes prior to their client using it.
Reservations / Shifts
It is recommended that the Facility adopt specific and limited reservation time slots for residents to sign up for. Ample time in between each reservation period must be provided to conduct cleaning and disinfecting.
Alternatively, the Facility may encourage workout shifts to be implemented, with scheduled cleaning in between shifts, encouraging residents to use the Facility with the same group of people on a regular basis, thereby limiting the exposure if a positive case is identified.
Hours of operation may also be limited to permit additional/extended ventilation within the Facility.
Signage and Directional Indicators
The installation of signage throughout the facilities per CDC and DOH guidelines is important and required by the State in order to inform and remind residents and employees the building/Facility policies as well as DOH recommended practices for social distancing, face covering, and hand hygiene. We have provided several templates of government agency approved signs for use and reference in Appendix A.
In order to facilitate the visitor/guest health screening and log in process, the Board should consider controlling the flow of foot traffic and movement of people through the Facility which may include installing floor markers (sample included in Appendix A) and other signage to facilitate social distancing.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Residents are only permitted entry into the facility if they wear an acceptable face covering. Employees Must be allowed to use their own face coverings however must not be required to supply their own protective equipment.
Measures must be put into place to limit the sharing of objects and touching common surfaces or require the employee to wear gloves when in contact with shared objects or commonly touched surfaces. Training must be conducted with all employees on usage and discarding PPE. Receptacles must be placed throughout for the disposal of used PPE.
Fitness FacilityReopening Guide
Regular cleaning and disinfecting must be conducted in accordance with DOH’s Interim Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfection of Public and Private Facilities for COVID-19. Interim guidance mandates that sufficient staff is to be available to clean and disinfect all equipment between users, but residents may also be required to wipe equipment down. If any individual equipment item(s) cannot be cleaned between each user for any reason, the equipment must be placed out of use, the building must supply disposable gloves, or set limits on the number of individuals who may use the equipment.
All building service workers should adhere to hygiene, cleaning, and disinfection requirements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Department of Health (DOH).
The building must maintain cleaning logs on site that document date, time, and scope of cleaning.
Please refer to the Health Screening portion of this guide for the applicable guidelines.
New York City currently prohibits all group classes.
It is recommended to encourage residents to bring their own towels to the extent possible. In the event that towels are provided by the Facility, all laundry service must be performed in accordance with CDC guidelines.
Locker Rooms and Restrooms
Proper signage must be put in place for adequate social distancing. Systems, such as flagging when occupied, to restrict occupancy must be adopted in areas when social distancing cannot be maintained. Communal showers must be closed. Individual showers may remain open, provided that they are cleaned and disinfected between each user.
It is recommended to install physical barriers between toilets and sinks if 6 feet of separation is not feasible. The use of touchless soap and paper tower dispensers is recommended.
Inspection of Facility
A Department of Health and Mental Hygiene inspection must occur before, or within 14 days after, opening. Once the affirmation is signed by a member of the Board, it will automatically trigger an inspection request.
New York City DOH has implemented a virtual inspection via video conference call. A facility manager with knowledge of the operational changes made to meet the state requirements must be available to conduct the video walk-through with a NYC Health Department inspector. Your AKAM Management Executive will facilitate this inspection once receiving confirmation that the affirmation has been submitted.
Section 3 – Safety & Communication Plans
Residential Fitness Facilities are required to develop a written Safety Plan outlining how its workplace will prevent the spread of COVID-19, similar to the previously mandated Phase Two Real Estate requirements. In many cases, the previously drafted Safety Plan may be utilized or adapted to the fitness facilities. In the event that your existing Safety Plan is not applicable, the State has provided a template Safety Plan, or the building may develop its own Safety Plan. The Safety Plan does not have to be submitted to the State, however, once completed, it must be posted prior to reopening and made available in the event of an inspection by a government agency.
There must be a designated site safety monitor, whose responsibilities include continuous compliance with all aspects of the site safety plan, available at all times.
A communications plan for employees and residents must be developed which includes applicable instructions, training, signage, and a consistent means to provide employees and residents with information. This may include building notices, emails, and procedure manuals.
Section 4 – Health Screening & Reporting
A log must be maintained of every person who enters the facility. The sign-in process may be conducted through any means that the building establishes in order to collect screening and contact information, including a digital platform (e.g., BuildingLink), swipe card reader, and/or paper form. Minimum requirements for health screening of all facility patrons include answering the following questions:
- Have you knowingly been in close or proximate contact in the past 14 days with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or who has or had symptoms of COVID-19?
- Have you tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days?
- Have you experienced any symptoms of COVID-19 in the past 14 days, or
- Have you traveled within a state with significant community spread od COVID-19 for longer than 24 hours within the past 14 days?
The facility must designate a central point of contact for receiving and attesting to have reviewed all questionnaires. Record of daily health screenings are to be logged and made available for inspection by a government agency. At a minimum, the name and the means of contacting the non-resident building occupant are required in order to facilitate contact tracing efforts initiated by a government agency.
In addition to a screening questionnaire, daily temperature checks may also be conducted via contactless thermometers or thermal cameras. Buildings are prohibited from keeping records of health data (e.g. temperature data).
AKAM has created and compiled from industry resources, template health screening assessment forms and questionnaires for the Facilities to use or to revise according to your specific protocols and procedures (please see Appendix B). Once the Board determines what protocols and procedures to implement, your AKAM Management Executive can use these documents and any provided by your legal counsel to create customized documents for the Facility. It is important to highlight again that given the sensitivity and personal information involved in health screenings, any decision, form or log the Board adopts should be reviewed by the building’s legal counsel prior to implementation.
Facility Service Workers
All facility service workers (staff) are required to undergo daily health screening prior to the start of their individual shift, however providing this is the same staff which are servicing the building, they will have been screened as part of your Phase Two Reopening protocols.
Any individual who screens positive for COVID-19 symptoms must not be allowed to enter the facility. Per the interim guidance, if a patron of the facility and/or service worker tests positive for COVID-19, the building is required to report the case to public health authorities, along with all individuals who entered the facility dating back 48 hours before the individual first experienced symptoms or tested positive, whichever is earlier.
Confidentiality must be maintained as required by federal and state law and regulations.
Section 5 – Affirmation
The State, in connection with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH), and the New York City Department of Health (NYC DOH) has prepared a document entitled “New York’s Interim Guidance for Gyms & Fitness Centers During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency”.
If the Fitness Facility is reopened, all of the guidelines are to be adhered to. Link to Interim Guidance: https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/Gyms_and_Fitness_Centers_Detailed_Guidelines.pdf
The State requires that all Gyms and Fitness Centers, including those within cooperatives and condominiums, submit an Affirmation form through the State’s website attesting that it has been read and the building will comply with guidelines and requirements of the document.
Link to Affirmation Form: https://forms.ny.gov/s3/ny-forward-affirmation
If the Board chooses to reopen their Facility, your AKAM Management Executive will work with the Board to designate the Board Member who will be submitting the Affirmation via the State’s website prior to reopening and provide any support or assistance the Board member needs to submit the Affirmation.
Below is the information required to include in the Affirmation prior to submission and our recommended responses:
- Industry the business belongs to: Gyms & Fitness Centers
- Business Name: Building’s corporate name
- Your Name: Board member’s first and last name
- Phone Number: AKAM’s main phone number: 212.986.0001
- Business Email Address: AKAM Management Executive’s Email Address
- Business Location Address: The building’s street address
Once submitted, the State’s website will provide confirmation that you have submitted the Affirmationas well as trigger a Virtual Inspection by the Department of Health. This confirmation is to be printed and posted in a conspicuous location and should be available to be presented upon the request of the Department of Buildings or other government agency.
Section 6 – Conclusion
The State’s interim guidance as it relates to the reopening of Fitness Facilities is intended to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus and to protect the health and safety of all building occupants.
As your management company, AKAM’s goal is to ensure the Board is supported with the most updated information, guidance, industry resources and templates/tools to consider the requirements and make operational decisions. Equally as important is our commitment to the Board and shareholders/owners in working tirelessly to implement and execute the operational protocols and procedures we collectively establish to adhere to the State’s requirements and to protect everyone’s health and safety.
Due to the fluid nature of the information and requirements, we anticipate that the State’s interim guidance and other directives that relate to the operation of Fitness Facilities will be revised or clarified based on a multitude of factors. Please be assured that we will continue to monitor all relevant sources for updates and communicate to you in a timely manner.
We look forward to continuing to work with you as we navigate through this unprecedented time, together.
Section 7 – References & Additional Info
New York State DOH Interim Guidance
New York State DOH Best Practices
New York City DOH COVID-19 Overview
CDC’s General Guidelines for Gym and Fitness Center Employers
CDC COVID-19 Overview
Occupational Safety and Health Administration COVID-19 Website