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Lawsuits & Litigation

California Gym, Fitness Center Owners Sue Gov. Newsom to Re-Open

— September 16, 2020

Gym owners say the state’s treatment of their businesses is arbitrary and opaque.

A coalition of California gym and fitness center owners have filed a lawsuit against Gov. Gavin Newsom.

According to The Mercury News, the so-called California Fitness Alliance claims that Newsom’s coronavirus-related business closures unfairly and disproportionately affect the industry. The Alliance, which represents some 350 different companies, is requesting that the courts strike down Newsom’s orders.

The lawsuit, notes the Mercury News, was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Tuesday. It broadly accuses Newsom of targeting gyms and fitness centers for prolonged closures without adequately explaining how such venues disproportionately contribute to coronavirus outbreaks.

Francesca Schuler, one of the CFA’s founding members, said Newsom’s orders are forcing Californians to exercise outside amidst high temperatures and air still dense with smoke from the state’s record-setting wildfires.

Schuler said neither she nor her colleagues are trying to challenge the state—more than anything, they just want a chance to prove themselves capable of keeping their gyms and studios clean and safe.

Gym equipment. Image via Flickr/uesr:Skngov. (CCA_BY-2.0).

“We are not looking for a fight,” Schuler said in a statement. “We are committed to being as safe as possible. We are in the health business. That’s what we care about more than anything.”

The Mercury News notes that, under California’s current rules, gyms can re-open when a county’s infection prevalence is downgraded from “widespread” to “substantial.”

In counties with “substantial” rates of coronavirus infection and spread, gyms may only operate at 10% capacity.

California’s least-affected counties—those with “minimal” transmission—may permit gyms to re-open at 50% capacity.

However, the Alliance’s lawsuit states that California’s re-opening plan—which incorporates different risk thresholds as well as a color-coding system—is opaque and arbitrary.

“State health officials did not cite any evidence for their discrimination against fitness, saying only that they worry about people breathing hard and that they suspect customers will not wear face coverings when exercising indoorthe lawsuit says. “That reasoning is arbitrary and irrational.”

Attorney Scott Street, who’s representing the California Fitness Alliance on behalf of L.A.-based Musick, Peeler & Garrett LLP, emphasized that his clients’ lawsuit is not the same as similar complaints filed by churches, shopping malls, and right-wing advocacy groups.

“This isn’t about politics or attacking the governor,” Street said. “It challenges the scope of the governor’s power to issue indefinite orders and the arbitrary treatment of fitness centers.”

Similar lawsuits have been filed against state governments across the country. In Michigan, a coalition of gym and studio owners sued state Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, alleging that her executive orders keeping gyms closed were also arbitrary.

However, a federal appeals court found it reasonable to believe that the sort of enhanced respiratory activity which tends to accompany strenuous physical exercise may abet the spread of novel coronavirus.

Gov. Whitmer has since allowed gyms, fitness centers, and other such venues to re-open at reduced capacity.


California Fitness Alliance sues state over coronavirus closures

Gym owners sue Newsom in effort to reopen

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