A federal judge ruled Friday that gyms statewide can reopen Thursday, despite Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order that has shuttered them for months in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
U.S. District Paul Mahoney granted a preliminary injunction that will allow gyms to open at 12:01 am Thursday.
The League of Independent Fitness Facilities and Trainers, a group representing more than 150 facilities statewide, sued Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in May, alleging that her orders violated business owners’ constitutional rights.
Mahoney said the state didn’t present a rational relationship between keeping indoor gyms closed and protecting the public health.
“In the Governor’s own words, those choices have been based on data and science, and the Court commends and respects that,” Maloney wrote. “But when asked what data, science, or even rationale supports the continued closure of indoor gyms, Defendants presented nothing beyond ‘trust us, they’re still dangerous.’”
Many businesses were threatened with insolvency after the 13-week shutdown, Mahoney wrote, and at least one facility lost 100 percent revenue while faced with continuing bills.
The judge noted that almost all previously closed businesses could now open, including nightclubs and hair salons, but not indoor gyms and fitness facilities.
“Faced with imminent harm, Plaintiffs presented Defendants with a simple question: why must we remain closed? Defendants answered with a blanket ‘trust us’ statement that is insufficient to uphold a no-longer-blanket rule.”
Gyms and fitness facilities in parts of northern Michigan were allowed to open on June 10 in two regions that had fewer COVID-19 cases and deaths than heavier-populated cities.
Whitmer’s office said it will appeal to the Sixth Circuit Court, Fox 2 reported.
“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,” Whitmer’s office said in a statement.
“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.”
Whitmer has said she hopes to move the state into phase 5 and allow gyms to open by July 4 if COVID-19 deaths and cases continue to trend downward.