Coronavirus-closed Virginia gyms lose battle to reopen

Gov. Ralph Northam issued an order closing nonessential businesses until May 8

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A Virginia judge ruled to keep a chain of gyms closed under a statewide shutdown order.

In a video call Thursday, Culpeper Circuit Court Judge Claude Worrell denied the franchise owner of nine Gold’s Gym facilities, which have been closed since late March, an injunction that would have kept them open despite the ongoing coronavirus shutdown. Owner Merrill C. Hall was represented by state Senators Ryan McDougle and Bill Stanley, who are Republicans.

Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, issued an executive order closing down nonessential businesses, including gyms, hair salons and other businesses, until May 8 because of the pandemic. Northam also issued a stay-at-home order for residents effective through June 10.

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Gold’s Gym argued the facilities should be allowed to reopen since they consider them private health clubs as opposed to public-facing gyms or fitness centers. In an affidavit, Hall said he’s had to lay off hundreds of employees, cut off membership to roughly 56,000 and that he wasn’t able to pay rent in April, according to one The Virginia Pilot,

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President and Chief Executive Officer Adam Zeitsiff said in statement that the company continues to “follow all direction from government and public health officials, which means all of our company-owned gyms as well as most of our locally-owned franchise gyms are temporarily closed,” adding that the chain is offering free at-home fitness options.

Some essential businesses already operating in the outbreak have employed safety measures including employee health screenings requiring workers to wear face masks. That could foreshadow how others could reopen under new social-distancing guidelines.

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Simon Property Group, the largest mall owner in the United States, for example, is planning to reopen a number of its properties soon with strict coronavirus safety measures, like floor decals to keep shoppers far apart from each other. Meanwhile, retailers Amazon and Walmart are enforcing temperature checks on workers upon entry.

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