Should gyms and salons be included in New York’s COVID-19 microcluster strategy?

Monroe County

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza said restaurants and bars have proven riskier than places like gyms, fitness centers, hair salons and barbershops—raising the question on what businesses should be subjected to microcluster zone restrictions.

The microcluster zone restrictions were put in place to target clusters of COVID-19, with the goal of reducing transmission. Some local town leaders are questioning why businesses where transmission is low are subject to heavy restrictions.

In the Town of Gates, only some areas fall under the orange zone, meaning business across the street from one another can be subject to different restrictions.

“To be honest with you kind unfair a little bit because we have one business who is in the yellow and then 20 feet away there’s another business that is in the orange zone,” Town Supervisor Cosmo Giunta said. “I feel bad for these businesses but we have to do what we have to do to bring us back down to the yellow.”

Irondequoit Town Supervisor Dave Seeley says he sees this as a consequence of the zone strategy, which wouldn’t have happened if the entire state was shut down.

“Since we’ve gone into orange, our cases have doubled and we’ve gone into uncharted waters,” Seeley said. “I think there’s a compelling case to be made that gyms and salons aren’t the cause to this. I hope the state is taking a look at that.”

According to Seeley, transmission hot spots point more toward indoor dining, and he hopes Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his monitoring team consider relaxing restrictions on salons, gyms and personal care services. 

During a briefing Wednesday, the governor called indoor dining dangerous, and said he had data on COVID-19 spread happening in restaurants. ​The zones do have the benefit of allowing some business to continue—a positive for areas with low cases of COVID-19. 

“There’s going to be some, for lack of better words, winners and losers in all this,” Seeley says, “and people that are in a close proximity that are going to operate under different guidelines. That’s the consequences of trying to more tactical of this rather than shutting the entire state down.”

Cuomo said 70% of COVID-19 cases in the state can be traced to small, indoor gatherings, and while they can’t control all aspects of people’s personal lives, these business restrictions are something they can control.

Going forward, the zone categorization will be based largely on hospitalization rates and capacities.

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