We are already familiar with many of the common battlegrounds for COVID-19. Should schools reopen? Should masks be required in grocery stores? Should college and professional sports return for upcoming seasons?
But there’s another battleground in turmoil: gyms.
From California to New Jersey and many states in between, gym owners and members are responding to state shutdown orders, often accepting the consequences to champion their beliefs.
California Gyms Defy State Orders By Refusing to Close
In mid-July, California Governor Gavin Newsom was forced to roll back reopening places as new outbreaks emerged. Houses of worship, dine-in restaurants, gyms, and barber shops were all included in Newsom’s decision, which has been enforced with toughest constraints in the state’s hardest hit counties.
However, not all gyms are willing to follow those shutdown orders. MetroFlex Gym in San Diego, for example, has been fighting to stay open since May. Owner Lou Uridel was cited and arrested in May for refusing to shut down during the first round of closures, but he was back in business a few days later.
According to Uridel, his gym is taking every preventative measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including adding outdoor operations. “I’m not doing this in defiance. I’m not doing this to thumb up at the county. I do believe I am working in good graces with the county, that’s why I am not closing down.”
“There’s so much at stake right now other than catching COVID-19,” Uridel went on to say. “There are people committing suicide, overdosing on drugs, it was at that moment I realized this is a far bigger picture than me and my business.”
New Jersey Gym Stripped of Business License
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country in New Jersey, the state government has not permitted gyms and fitness centers to reopen indoor operations since they were first ordered to shut down in March.
Atilis Gym in Camden County reopened on May 18, choosing to defy the shutdown orders. Health officials shut the gym down after three days, prompting a legal battle between the state and the gym that is still ongoing.
In the most recent development, the gym had its business license revoked by the local city council. Atilis Gym co-owner Ian Smith slammed the 5-1 vote as a political move, claiming that no evidence was presented showing the gym to pose any threat to public health.
The state, however, tells a different story, charging the gym owners with contempt, obstruction and violation of a disaster control act.
Phoenix, Arizona Gym Told to Shutdown Immediately After Reopening
California and New Jersey aren’t the only states dealing with gyms seeking to reopen. A Phoenix gym, Tangible Fitness, reopened on August 12 and almost immediately received a notice from the Arizona Health Department instructing them to shut down or face criminal action.
The Health Department claims that owner Chris Scheimann has not “applied or been approved by health services to reopen,” but Scheimann says otherwise.
“Most people say they feel safer here than going to the grocery store or all these other places where there are really no guidelines being followed,” Sheimann said. “I have to continue. I have bills to pay; my rent doesn’t change. Nothing changes for me,” he continued.
Even larger gyms in the area have filed for temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions to remain open. It’s an ongoing battle with no clear end in sight.