TRENTON, NJ - There could be renewed hope for the 1,100 or so gyms and health clubs across New Jersey, whose rowing machines, treadmills and elliptical machines have been powered down since the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Phil Murphy revealed that while he was conducting Friday's COVID-19 briefing, members of his administration were meeting behind the scenes with representatives of the Gym Owners' Association to hatch a plan where they could safely open.

“We are trying to find a way to get to both indoor dining and get gyms open,” Murphy said. “We take their concerns very seriously.”

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Gyms have been closed since Murphy issued executive order 157 on March 16. Exercise enthusiasts have had to settle for outdoor training and one-on-one fitness classes ever since.

Murphy, who has famously repeated the mantras "Public health creates economic health" and "Data determines dates" since the early stages of the pandemic, got two bits of good news on Friday.

The transmission rate - that is, how many people someone with COVID-19 on average will infect — fell below the crucial 1.0 mark. Also, the rate of positivity was also low (1.63).

Murphy stopped short of saying that he would move to reopen gyms and restaurants if those stats continued their positive trend.

“My guess is that we’re going to have to continue to see good numbers and that there will be significant parameters,” he said.

Murphy has felt the pressure to re-open gyms and fitness centers for months. Atilis Gym in Bellmawr has made national headlines after owners Ian Smith and Frank Trumbetti opened May 18 in defiance Murphy's order.

Order 157 also shut down indoor dining. Murphy aimed to reopen restaurants with limited seating on July 2, but he reneged on the deal because of a last-minute spike in COVID-19 cases attributed to out-of-state travel.

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