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Gym owners spar with Governor Whitmer in court over the right to reopen

Contours Express

A legal battle between the state and gym owners will determine whether gyms will open across the state this week.

Last week, a federal court granted an injunction allowing gyms across the state to reopen starting on Thursday.

In his decision granting a preliminary injunction to gyms on Friday, Judge Paul Maloney wrote that when gyms asked in court why they must remain closed the state could only answer “trust us.”

Almost immediately after the judge released his decision, the state filed a motion to stay the injunction and appealed the decision to the US Six Circuit Court of Appeals.

Scott Erskine, an Attorney representing the League of Independent Fitness Facilities and Trainers, which represents roughly 150 gym owners, said the state is arguing that a delayed start won’t cause undue harm to gyms.

“Apparently, the state believes that keeping businesses closed for over 14 weeks at this point really does no harm to them. We obviously take great issue with that.”

Erskine said the state’s order keeping gyms closed has been arbitrary and many gyms are in danger of insolvency.

“One of the Governor’s arguments is that you breathe hard in a gym. Well in Michigan right now you can have ten people sing indoors at a private choir, you can have 100 people outdoors at a choir practice. So the Governor’s argument that you breathe hard in a gym is no different than so many things she’s already opened.”

Erskine said the state’s efforts to appeal are somewhat surprising.

“I’m a little bit surprised that they are doing this because the Governor had been hinting that the gyms could open by July 4th. They’re doing all this to keep gyms closed perhaps an extra week.”

The state appealed the decision to the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and is also seeking a motion from Judge Maloney to stay reopening gyms.

Erskine said if the judge doesn’t grant the stay he expects the state will seek it from the Court of Appeals.

In a written statement, the Governor’s office said the idea that gyms should open later “is hardly surprising and highly sensible.”

You can read the state’s full statement on the Judge’s decision below:

“Governor Whitmer respectfully, but strongly, disagrees with this decision, and will be seeking immediate relief from the Sixth Circuit. With this ruling, the court is playing a dangerous role it should not play: second-guessing and upending the data-informed decisions that have saved thousands of lives in Michigan. The idea that gyms – with their high levels of heavy respiratory activity, shared indoor spaces, and shared surfaces – might be one of the later businesses to come back online in the midst of this global pandemic is hardly surprising and highly sensible.”