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Michigan Gov. Whitmer Asks Court to Stop Gyms from Opening

— June 23, 2020

Gov. Whitmer argued that the state does not need to provide precise metrics to make a public health decision.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is asking a federal court to stop gyms in the state from opening on Thursday.

The Detroit News reports that Gov. Whitmer and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon petitioned the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to “immediately” suspend a district court order that will allow gyms across the state to re-open.

The district court order, issued by Judge Paul L. Maloney on Friday, invalidated parts of Whitmer’s executive orders on coronavirus mitigation protocol—including a statewide blanket ban on the operation of gyms and other fitness facilities.

In his decision, Maloney opined that Whitmer is within her authority to restrict certain kinds of businesses, provided her office has sufficient rationale.

Then-state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer delivering a speech in 2011. Image via Flickr/user:swskeptic. (CCA-BY-2.0).

“This court must uphold the governor’s executive orders as long as they are supported by some relation to the public health,” Maloney wrote. “Unfortunately […] the court has not been presented with any evidence that shows a rational relation between the continued closure of indoor gyms and the preservation of public health.”

Gym owners, who filed a lawsuit against the state, have repeatedly insisted that it is unfair and discriminatory for other Michigan businesses—like shopping malls—to re-open while fitness centers remain closed.

Whitmer and Gordon, adds the Detroit News, want re-openings to held off until the state’s appeal can be resolved.

“The last thing anyone wishes to see is a wave of the pandemic that may require a return of limitations that have already been relaxed,” state attorneys wrote.

“The success of the Governor’s efforts has been placed Michigan in a small category of states in which the pandemic is significantly receding, and this ruling creates the risk of reversing this trend.”

The government’s appeal also took issue with Maloney’s demands for “rational relation[s],” especially as it pertains to the ongoing pandemic.

“The problem here is not lack of data, science or rationale,” the appeal states. “Instead, what is missing is analytical discipline and judicial modesty.”

“Pandemic response cannot be boiled down to the precision of a mathematical formula or the timing of banking a cake,” Whitmer and Gordon wrote. “It is a wide-ranging, on-going problem that calls for nimble and flexible approaches, and not one-off judicial carveouts.”

The motion explained a series of seemingly common-sense reasons as to why gyms facilitate coronavirus transmission to a greater degree than other commercial and recreational venues.

“The idea that gyms—with their high levels of 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,” it says. “Nor is there any basis as a matter of constitutional law to second guess the conclusion that indoor gyms are different from other sectors of the economy that by their nature are subject to different timing as pandemic-related restrictions are relaxed.”


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