They will be required to operate at 25% of indoor capacity and follow other safety guidelines, the officials said. The new rules go into effect on Sept. 1.
Murphy is expected to make a formal announcement Wednesday afternoon during his coronavirus briefing in Trenton.
Gyms have been allowed to operate for about two months, but only on a limited basis. They have only been allowed to be used for personal trainers to give private lessons to individuals or multiple members of the same household or the same “bubble,” as Murphy has referred to it.
Up until now, the governor has refused to fully reopen gyms and his administration has taken action against gym owners who defied his orders. The owners of a South Jersey gym were arrested in July for refusing to keep their gym closed. The arrest sparked a court battle that has resulted, so far, in nearly $130,000 in fines against the owners of the gym.
Murphy had expressed concern about the ability to spread the virus to others inside gyms.
“You’ve got sweating, grunting, you’ve got a lot of stuff going on which, not only are you indoors, (but) close, etc,” he said at a news briefing at the end of June. “It’s painful as heck for them. We have nothing but sympathy for that, I promise you. Gyms are really, particularly a gym with a regular capacity, is a really hard one … from the health side.”
But the governor had said as recently as two weeks ago that his administration planned to meet with gym owners and that he was taking their concerns “very seriously.”
The new rules for gyms when they open their doors on Sept. 1 also include:
- Restrictions on indoor group activities (such as cycling classes) to one person for every 200 square feet of space in the room.
- Masks or face coverings must be worn at all times inside the gym.
- Equipment must be six feet apart.
- People must sign a form when they enter the gym that says they will adhere to the safety guidelines.
- Gyms must keep a log of workers and clients, including names and phone numbers, so the information could be made available to contact tracers in the event there’s a COVID-19 exposure at the facility.
Murphy is taking this next step because New Jersey’s new positive cases and the rate of transmission showing how the virus is spreading have trended in the right direction and because masks can be worn at all times inside gyms, the officials said.
Having to take masks off to eat is a reason why the governor has yet to lift restrictions on indoor dining at restaurants and why movie theaters, because they sell food, haven’t been allowed to reopen.
Gyms in neighboring New York were allowed to reopen as early as the beginning of this week after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently lifted restrictions on them.
When asked about Cuomo’s decision last week, Murphy said his administration was “getting very close on some steps we could take and gyms.”
He added: “I’m not sure that we’re going to be learning a lot from the New York experience, but we have an enormous regard for New York, so the fact that they’re taking that step, and understanding the basis upon which they’re making that decision, and taking that step is a helpful data point.”
New Jersey health officials reported 346 cases Tuesday and five additional deaths as the rate of transmission dropped for the fourth consecutive day and remained below the key benchmark of 1.
It brings the death toll from the outbreak in the Garden State to 15,953 people with 14,124 confirmed and 1,829 probable fatalities — second highest in the United States. The total number of positive coronavirus tests climbed to 190,021, eighth in the nation.
Murphy also announced Tuesday that the state’s travel advisory that calls for people arriving from COVID-19 hotspots shrank for the first time since New Jersey joined New York and Connecticut in calling for people to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Maryland and Montana were removed from the list of states, which now stands at 31 states and territories.
Monday marked the tenth consecutive day with fewer than 500 coronavirus patients at New Jersey’s hospitals.