Gyms are still closed in most of Michigan due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a federal Court of Appeals panel ruled late Wednesday.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer shut down non-essential businesses in March to stop the spread of coronavirus, which has infected more than 61,000 and killed more than 5,800 in Michigan. Gyms and fitness centers are among the businesses still closed in most of the state under phase 4 of the governor’s reopening plan.
Gyms are allowed to operate under phase 5, which is in effect in the Upper Peninsula and part of northern Michigan. However, Whitmer said this week the rest of the state will not move to phase 5 before the Fourth of July, as there’s been concern over a slight rise in COVID-19 cases.
U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney last week ordered gyms to be opened Thursday because Whitmer’s order didn’t pass a “rational basis” test, something many legal experts disputed. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with Maloney and issued a stay while an appeal is heard.
“Crises like COVID-19 can call for quick, decisive measures to save lives,” the judges wrote. “Yet those measures can have extreme costs — costs that often are not borne evenly. The decision to impose those costs rests with the political branches of government, in this case, Governor Whitmer.”
The lawsuit was filed last month by 20 gym companies and the League of Independent Fitness Facilities and Trainers Inc. trade organization.
“Today three Republican-appointed judges got it right: in the fight against a global pandemic, courts must give governors broad latitude to make quick, difficult decisions,” Whitmer’s office said in a statement. “The governor will continue to take the actions necessary to save lives.”