NJ gyms expected to open at reduced capacity Sept. 1

By KYW Newsradio 1060

UPDATED: 1 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Gov. Phil Murphy is allowing New Jersey’s indoor gyms — closed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic — to reopen under new restrictions starting Sept. 1.

It's a long-awaited step toward normalcy in the state.

Capacity would be limited to 25%. Masks are required. Equipment has to be six feet apart. Patrons have to sign an agreement saying they’ll follow the rules, and gyms have to keep a log of customers for contact tracing. 

Since June, indoor gyms have been allowed to open only for private sessions with personal trainers. 

At TKO Fitness in Cherry Hill, members have been holding outdoor workouts while the current restrictions have been in place. Owner Alex Barbosa said he plans to abide by the new guidelines.

"I’m capping it at 13 people in a class, anyway, to provide ample space, and making sure that no one is on top of each other," Barbosa told KYW Newsradio. "All that heavy breathing and all that grunting and all the stuff that everybody’s afraid of — we’re going to make sure we avoid all that."

Barbosa said he believes the reopening of indoor gyms is overdue. "The numbers haven’t necessarily qualified us being closed as long as we’ve been," he said. "I’ve effectively lost 40 percent of my members."

Barbosa said he’s hired a cleaning firm to sanitize inside the gym, and that there would be extra expenses to reopening amid a pandemic. Barbosa compared his business to boxing.  He said fighters have to adjust in the ring, or they lose.

Murphy has said the rate of virus transmission has trended in the right direction to the point where the state may consider lifting more indoor restrictions.  Indoor dining, though, remains prohibited.

He also announced that New Jersey was applying for an extra $300 a week in unemployment benefits from FEMA for workers who lost their jobs due to COVID-19.