Michigan Gyms Risk Legal Consequences to Defy Order

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In March, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order closing businesses in her state amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, nearly four months later, some of those businesses are openly defying the order — and risking legal liability. 

According to the Detroit Free Press, while Whitmer’s order was relaxed for northern parts of the state, where the population is less dense and there are fewer COVID cases, most of the state remains under the order’s restrictions. A lawsuit brought by gym owners had them hours away from reopening last week, until a U.S. appeals court panel delayed the implementation of the lower court’s ruling. The appeals court has yet to issue a ruling on the case, but nevertheless, some gyms are open for business.

Gyms could be cited for misdemeanors if they are found to be operating in defiance of the order, according to the Free Press. Enforcement of the executive order is up to local police and county prosecutors. No new enforcement powers were granted when the executive order was issued, meaning that no state entity has the power to shut down a gym or business. 

Some gyms that were cited for violation agreed to close voluntarily, while others continue to operate. 

"We're open because I think it's unconstitutional," Don Larson, the owner of a Gold's Gym location, told the Free Press. “My members need a place to be to stay strong and healthy, and it keeps their immune systems high.” 

Gym goers, meanwhile, have said that gyms are doing their best to implement additional precautions. One Crunch Fitness member told the Free Press that the gym he visited had posted visual reminders to maintain physical distancing, as well as taken the step of disabling water fountains.

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