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Reopening the Gym for the Vaccinated: What to Consider

Other, Real Estate Legality

Now that vaccine efforts are well underway , the question on everyone’s mind is whether businesses and other private entities can bar the unvaccinated from entry. Boards in co-ops and condos, particularly regarding gym use, are not excluded from this discussion. At least one co-op board in New York City has decided to reopen the building’s gym; however, the gym will only be accessible to shareholders who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. [1]

Proponents of the digital vaccine passport, which can currently be accessed through Excelsior Pass—a mobile app—suggest boards can keep both residents and workers safe by using the passport as an additional protection measure. [2] Opponents of the digital passport and other vaccine verification systems challenge these methods as discriminatory because (a) many people are still waiting to get vaccinated; (b) the vaccine is not mandatory and some people do not want to receive the vaccine for medical or religious reasons; (c) some consider it as having a medical condition held against them; and (d) not everyone will want to share their vaccine status as they consider it to be private health information.

Currently, only 25% of the total population in New York City is fully vaccinated while 38% has received at least one dose. [3] Tenants and homeowners who want to use their buildings’ fitness facilities will argue that the gyms should be open to everyone. On the legal side of it, limiting access to only some residents can be discriminatory for the reasons stated above. One the other side of it, boards may find it difficult to restrict access for practical reasons. Co-op boards would have to find a secure way to keep personal vaccination records on hand and have an employee at the gym’s entrance to check residents each time they want to enter the gym. Moreover, co-op boards still have to follow state guidelines which help keep gyms safe for everyone, including the unvaccinated; such guidelines include enforcing face coverings, limiting capacity to 33%, and enforcing social distancing. [4]

Co-op boards can avoid potential lawsuits by reopening fitness facilities to everyone and following state guidelines to ensure minimal virus spread.

[1] “Can Co-ops and Condos Limit Gym Use to the Vaccinated?”, Habitat, 29 Mar. 2021, https://www.habitatmag.com/Publication-Content/COVID-19/2021/2021-March/Can-Co-ops-and-Condos-Limit-Gym-Use-to-the-Vaccinated, acc. 20 Apr. 2021.

[2] Paula Chin, “Vaccine Passports Could be a Valuable Tool for Co-ops and Condos”, Habitat, 1 Apr. 2021, https://www.habitatmag.com/Publication-Content/COVID-19/2021/2021-April/Vaccine-Passports-Could-Be-a-Valuable-Tool-for-Co-ops-and-Condos, acc. 20 Apr. 2021.

[3] “COVID-19: Data”, NYC Health, https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/covid/covid-19-data-vaccines.page, acc. 20 Apr. 2021.

[4] “Reopening New York Gyms & Fitness Centers Guidelines”, Governor NY, https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/Gyms_and_Fitness_Centers_Summary_Guidelines.pdf, acc. 20. Apr. 2021.

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