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Relief, frustration as gyms, salons and barber shops reopen in COVID orange zone

Zoom/Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that gyms, salons and spas may reopen but work under restrictions within a designated COVID "orange zone." The move comes as Cuomo says data shows those businesses have not been sources of significant viral spreads. Some owners of such businesses, while pleased they may reopen, say they've been telling the governor all along they could operate safely.

During his Friday COVID briefing, Cuomo released numbers that revealed salons, gyms, barber shops and similar services accounted for less than one percentage point of coronavirus spread within New York State.

“Gyms are one of the lowest known spreaders now, by the facts. We've increased the testing, we've reduced the capacity. Gyms are now down to 0.06 (percent)," Cuomo said. "Hair salons, barber shops, personal care, 0.14 (percent). And again, small gatherings are the greatest individual issue, and we believe this is going to continue to increase over the holidays."

The latter source, according to state data, accounts for 74 percent of viral spread in the state.

Gyms, salons, barber shops and similar services will be required within an orange zone to operate at 25 percent capacity. They will also be required to get their personnel tested every week.

"We are happy, but I mean, why now does he finally decide to listen, that all this time we are not a spreader, and we are actually a good thing?" said Amy Bueme, owner of Catalyst Fitness, who says businesses like hers have also been able to demonstrate that they are among the best with providing information for contact tracing.

Bueme, as she has agued previously, contends gyms are an essential business because they provide a means to improve both physical and mental health of clients. She tells WBFO she will reopen he facilities on Monday.

“We have larger facilities, so we're able to still let a lot of people in at 25-percent occupancy," she said. "But for the smaller fitness clubs, you know it's just very hurtful.”

In Buffalo, Local Honey Beauty Hive is also set to reopen Monday. Owner Jennifer Bohlen admitted surprise to the news that businesses like hers could reopen under orange zone status.

Their challenge now, she tells WBFO, is meeting the higher demand that usually comes at this time of year.

“We're going to have everybody wanting to flood the gate that wants to get their hair done before Christmas," Bohlen said. "Normally this month is triple booked, because everyone wants to get in before Christmas, so now it's gonna be, like, even crazier.”

Bohlen suggests that clients who are unable to get an appointment under the circumstances may still support businesses like hers in the short term by purchasing gift certificates.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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