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Some buzz with excitement as return of bowling, NYC museums, gyms nears

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said it will be

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said it will be up to the local school districts to decide on a return to instruction using an in-person, hybrid, remote or another educational model, as schools reopen from the coronavirus shutdown.  Credit: Office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo / Kevin P. Coughlin

This story was reported by Laura Albanese, Victor Ocasio and Craig Schneider. It was written by Schneider.

The instant Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Friday that bowling alleys will be able to reopen starting Monday, Long Island bowlers sprang into action, phoning their league teammates, shopping for new equipment and planning to hurl thunderous strikes down those wooden lanes.

Long Island is a land filled with bowlers — 15,000 in leagues alone, not to mention families who hit the lanes on the weekends — and a thrill is rushing around their world after five months of COVID-19 inactivity, said Steven Sanders, executive director of the Long Island United States Bowling Congress, the group that sanctions local leagues.

"Our little world was buzzing when this news came out," said Sanders, adding that he is already planning to buy a new bowling ball and bag. "This is our thing. You miss it."

New York continues to register low levels of the coronavirus, prompting Cuomo to allow bowling alleys to reopen, with safety measures in place.

On a day loaded with COVID-19 news from the state, the governor also announced that low-risk cultural sites such as museums and aquariums will be able to reopen in New York City on Aug. 24. Such facilities on Long Island were given the green light on July 8, when the Island reached Phase 4 of its reopening. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the governor decided to hold off opening these sites in the city until now.

Cuomo also said he would issue protocols for the reopening of gyms Monday. The move was heralded as a victory by a coalition of gym owners that have protested the extended closures, and who have sued the governor, state and attorney general for the financial losses incurred after they were not allowed to reopen with the start of Phase 4.

“Let’s take it for what it is — a win,” said Charles Cassara, who owns two gyms on Long Island, and is president of the New York Fitness Coalition, a group of around 700 New York gym owners who banded together after the facilities remained closed. “We’ll wait to see … what the guidelines are and when he’ll allow us to start opening up.”

Gyms filed their lawsuit against the state July 9, and the attorney general was required to respond by Friday, though the promise of guidelines could change that, Cassara said.

The attorney general on Friday moved for a motion of adjournment in the gym lawsuit, in light of the governor's remarks, said James Mermigis of the Syosset-based Mermigis Law Group, which is representing the gym owners.

'Fantastic' numbers for New York

New York continued a level of testing greater than any other state, Cuomo said, registering a low 0.85% level of new positives out of about 85,000 COVID-19 tests Thursday. The state has had seven straight days below the 1% level of new cases.

"That is fantastic," Cuomo said. It "is a great number and is based on a very large sample size, the largest sample sizes that we’ve been taking … so on the numbers it’s been extraordinary. Congratulations to all New Yorkers." 

The state said three residents died from coronavirus-related causes Thursday and that 554 remained hospitalized, with 127 in intensive care units and 59 of those patients intubated.

Nassau saw 45 new cases, bringing the total to 43,840. Suffolk registered 58 new cases for a total of 44,045.

Five establishments in Nassau County were among a dozen issued violations Thursday after the State Liquor Authority and State Police Task Force visited 1,332 establishments in New York City and Long Island.

Scrambling to reopen

With only a few days' notice before bowling alleys can open, owners spent Friday scrambling to call in employees, set up sanitizing stations, stock up on food and beverages, and make changes to accommodate the new rules.

Woodmere Lanes owner Nick Paxinos said he has eliminated a room for birthday parties and brought in smaller tables so people have more room to walk about. A bunch of customers called asking, "Is it true?" he said. He has to figure out how to accommodate his bowling league members, as the leagues begin next month.

"These are problems I want to have," Paxinos said.

The bowling alley reopening will be conditioned on limiting their businesses to 50% capacity, requiring face coverings, having every other lane closed, keeping parties together and separate from each other and serving food by waited service only. The businesses also will need to have clear protocols on cleaning and disinfecting, particularly of rented and shared equipment, Cuomo said.

Chris Keller, owner of The All Star in Riverhead, said he has been upgrading his bowling alley for months, spending about $20,000, to make it safe for customers. He has set up touchless temperature checks, wooden dividers between the lanes, ultraviolet light sanitizing stations for the rental shoes and balls and plexiglass shields at the front desk.

"It's a tremendous time for bowling," he said.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran also praised the opening, saying she believes it's time to reopen bowling alleys and gyms.

Cultural sites, including museums and aquariums, may reopen in New York City on Aug. 24, under a 25% maximum occupancy limit, requiring ticketed entrances, staggered admission and controlled traffic flows.

Cuomo: Schools need to be safe

The governor reminded school districts that they need to have meaningful discussions with their parents and teachers if they want to have a successful return to classes. He said he made the decision to allow the schools' reopening based on the state's infection rate, but the next steps are up to each school district.

“They have the ability to open. That does not mean the parents or the teachers or the school districts must open," Cuomo said. "They can open if they are safe" and "safe means they have the proper precautions in place and the teachers and the parents agree that they are safe to open.”

Among matters for districts to address are testing requirements, social distancing practices, and tracing protocols when positives emerge, and those plans need to have parent and teacher approval, he said. Cuomo said he has received complaints about district meetings where parents could not ask questions or teachers felt manipulated into accepting plans.

If "school districts want to stonewall conversations, it’s going to show up on the first day that schools are supposed to open," because the parents won’t send their children and the teachers won’t show up to work, he said.

Larger debate on COVID-19

Cuomo said COVID-19 will be the main factor in the November election, and will impact results of U.S. House, Senate and presidential races.

"Washington is going to fail the leadership test and you will see it in all elections," Cuomo said. "This is a historic crisis. Everyone is afraid."

The state prevailed in federal court this week in a legal challenge to its “travel advisory” requiring the self-quarantine of travelers to New York from a list of states where the level of infections is high.

Addressing President Donald Trump’s memorandum on enhancing weekly unemployment payments by $300, Cuomo said the executive order isn’t legal and wouldn’t be feasible logistically.

“What’s happening is he’s trying to do with executive order that which requires a law,” Cuomo said. “So, it’s all political, it’s not legal, he will be sued, and the executive order will fail.”

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Of alleys, gyms and museums

The reopening for bowling alleys includes COVID-19 restrictions, as will the reopening of museums and aquariums, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said. Guidelines for gymnasiums' reopenings are expected to be released Monday.

Bowling alleys

  • Will be able to operate at a 50% maximum occupancy limit.
  • Face coverings and social distancing will be required at all times.
  • Every other lane must be closed.
  • Patrons need to stay with the party at their assigned lane.
  • Must have plans for thorough cleaning and disinfection of shared or rented equipment between each use.
  • All food service must follow all state-issued guidance. Due to restrictions on indoor dining, food and beverage service will not be allowed in New York City bowling alleys.

Museums and other cultural institutions

  • New York City museums and other low-risk cultural institutions can reopen starting Aug. 24.
  • The institutions include museums, aquariums and other low-risk indoor cultural arts.
  • All institutions that reopen will be subject to state guidance. These institutions must obey strict safety protocols, including a 25% maximum occupancy limit, timed ticketing required with preset, staggered entry.
  • There must be strict enforcement of face coverings, social distancing, controlled traffic flow to avoid crowding, and enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols.

SOURCE: New York State