You’ll have to pump iron at home, because gyms are still closed

    Susan J. Demas

    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.

    Whitmer: State not yet ready for phase 5 of reopening plan

    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.”

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    Susan J. Demas is a 19-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.