‘I’m big on the Constitution:’ California owner defies orders, opens gym, calling it essential


VICTORVILLE, Calif. – Even though California Gov. Gavin Newsom said it could be weeks, possibly even months, before he allows gyms across the Golden State to reopen, some fitness owners are defying orders, saying pumping iron and running on the treadmill are essential to someone’s physical and mental health.

The latest gym owner to defy Newsom’s stay-at-home order is Jacob Lewis of Victorville, San Bernardino County. He re-opened The Gym HD during the first weekend in May.

“I’m big on the Constitution,” he said. “So if you want to wear a mask, wear a mask. If you don’t, don’t. If you want to come in, great, use it. If you don’t want to come in, stay at home.”

Lewis said he’s getting support from other gym owners.

But Victorville spokeswoman Sue Jones told the Daily Press that city officials were “appalled by Lewis’ “egregious violation” of the county’s public health order.

City code enforcement officials issued a notice of the order’s violation to the gym. Lewis had three days to comply with it, according to Jones. If the gym remains open, the notice would “escalate the situation to a citation and further,” she said.

According to Jones, more than 725 nonessential businesses in the city are in compliance.

Lewis isn’t the only gym order to feel frustrated and defy orders.

Sean Covell, who owns three “Fitness System” near Sacramento, opened his gyms during the last week of April – and he hired a lawyer who called the shutdown order “government overreach.”

It’s not just gyms. A hair salon in Solano County also reopened. The owner said she’d rather get a citation than lose another $15,000.

Newsom has repeatedly said that he feels business owners’ economic pain, but that he’s ordered the state to lock down at home to prevent more coronavirus deaths.

As of Monday, May 4, more than 2,200 people had died in California from coronavirus, and Newsom’s strict rules have been credited for the relatively low death toll. New York City, for example, has seen more than 18,000 people die since the beginning of March.

However, Newsom signaled that modifications coming by week’s end. He announced that by Friday, May 8 stores selling clothing, books, florists toys and sporting goods could open by offering curbside pickup for the time being.

However, none of these changes immediately apply to the Bay Area – and gyms and hair salons are still a ways off for getting reopening approval, Newsom said.

If counties, such as the Bay Area, want to be more strict and not allow retail to re-open, then Newsom said he respected that and noted that some counties have fewer deaths than others and might feel more comfortable in reopening. Bay Area health officers have not yet indicated if and when they would follow Newsom’s lead.

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