Last-minute ruling keeps Michigan gyms closed, hours before they could reopen

Gyms were set to open Thursday under the ruling but a Wednesday order rules that most Michigan gyms remain closed. (Shutterstock)

Sept. 2: Michigan gyms, theaters, bowling alleys may finally be able to reopen soon

Most Michigan gyms will remain closed Thursday, after a panel of three federal judges sided with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer just hours before they were to reopen.

The order reverses an order by U.S. District Court Judge Paul Maloney on Monday, who had allowed fitness centers to remain open and refused to pause his decision while Whitmer appealed. Gyms were set to open Thursday under the ruling. 

The eight-page decision — written by Judges Julia Gibbons, Deborah Cook and Chad Readler of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, all of whom were appointed by Republican presidents — offered sweeping support for governors exercising executive power under the coronavirus pandemic. 

State and local executives have “had difficult decisions to make in honoring public health concerns while respecting individual liberties,” the judges wrote. 

Maloney had argued that Whitmer “could not articulate a reason beyond the bare assertion that gyms are dangerous.” However, the appeals judges argued Whitmer supported her order with research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, even though the legal standard only requires her to provide “rational speculation” and “conceivable” support for her actions. 

The judges wrote they “sympathize deeply” with business owners who must remain closed under the order, but wrote that “crises like COVID-19 can call for quick, decisive measures to save lives.”

“Yet those measures can have extreme costs—costs that often are not borne evenly,” they wrote. “The decision to impose those costs rests with the political branches of government, in this case, Governor Whitmer.”

The case was filed in late May by a trade organization for fitness center owners.

“Though Plaintiffs bear the very real risk of losing their businesses, the Governor’s interest in combating COVID-19 is at least equally significant,” the judges wrote.

“To date, the disease has infected thousands of Michiganders, and it has shown the potential to infect many more. That the public interest weighs in favor of a stay is apparent for the same reason.”

Since March, nearly 5,900 Michigan residents have died and almost 62,000 have been infected by the coronavirus.

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Thu, 06/25/2020 - 7:45am

An appointed judge, Paul Maloney, decided he could legislate pandemic rules from the bench.

That's not how a democracy works, judge. You don't get to second guess elected officials in emergency situations, like a pandemic. If you want to legislate, run for office, judge.

Thu, 06/25/2020 - 1:31pm

Judges appointed by Republicans. You forgot to mention that! LOL

Kevin Grand
Thu, 06/25/2020 - 7:53am

These stories would be more helpful if they actually included the ruling itself so that people can see what was, and was not, mentioned for themselves.

The fact that the Judges themselves even acknowledged that the governor's orders were "unsupported by evidence or empirical data", is very telling (and troubling).

Patrick Diehl
Thu, 06/25/2020 - 7:55am

In the last sentence, "have died" is missing after "nearly 5,900 Michigan residents..."

Hiram Fitzgerald
Thu, 06/25/2020 - 8:55am

Your last sentence in the article about gyms omitted the word "died" in reference to 5,900 Michigan residents, a rather important omission.

Thu, 06/25/2020 - 8:57am

Thank God. The pandemic is exploding again because few people are using caution. The governor is right. The president is wrong. The virus is nonpartisan.

Thu, 06/25/2020 - 9:02am

This is getting completely insane.. We on one side have the Constitution guaranteeing our God given rights and Freedoms and on the other we have Legal Standards based on “rational speculation” and “conceivable” support for her actions.". The are now plenty of studies that refute the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention information. So when is this madness going to end?

Fri, 06/26/2020 - 12:20pm

Texas, Florida, Georgia as well as other states are seeing dramatic increases in COVID 19 cases. These states did not take this seriously from the beginning. CDC, Drs. Fauchi and Birx warned against opening too soon. We are now seeing the repercussions of willful ignorance.

Thu, 06/25/2020 - 9:26am

Any attorney would tell you that Judge Maloney's decision rested on very shaky grounds, and the emphatic language of the appeals court decision should be no surprise. However, as the hot spot in the bar in East Lansing shows, it is likely that the decision to allow bars and restaurants to reopen was premature. Masks and social distancing are the exception, not the rule, in most places. Let's hope that Michiganders start to take things seriously enough so that we don't reverse course.

old hippie
Thu, 06/25/2020 - 4:23pm

The first wave is still here and cases are going up as more people get more stupid about it. I wear a mask because I care for others, because I am pro-life and because it's patriotic. It's my right. Every person I see not wearing a mask is a threat to my freedom.
It is so interesting to see this played out on a regional level. The village I live in does not tolerate stupid and all of us are quick to inform those non-masked patrons in our stores to get the hell out. Most of us carry an extra mask to give them.
We are taking it serious and it shows with our very low case loads.
But just south of here, the kooks are running the asylum! Few people wearing masks and most are clueless out of state or down state visitors.
Those stores and bars and restaurants who refuse to enforce mandatory masks are hereby put on notice. We rate them on social media as "unsafe". Zero stars.
Everyone I talk to here in town says the same thing: We wont shop them today. And not next year. Maybe never again. They will lose their local, loyal customer base for any possible revenue in the off season.

Thu, 06/25/2020 - 12:04pm

Hard to understand. Gyms have been using disinfectant wipes and cleaning machines between members long before Covid-19 even arrived. How is this more dangerous than a restaurant, bar, grocery store, etc?
I'm sure gyms could figure out how to open safely as other businesses have.

Fri, 06/26/2020 - 10:29am

People panting and breathing hard (like doing strenuous exercise at a gym) expel a lot more droplets, a lot farther, and breathe in a lot more deeply and more frequently than a person shopping for groceries or seated at a table at a restaurant. They also have a lot less air recycling because they have to keep the air conditioning higher to keep sweaty people from overheating.

J Hendricks
Fri, 06/26/2020 - 8:48pm

Possibly the heavy breathing expelling more potential germs into the common space tends to make gyms a little different from say restaurants. Still, I would let people make their own decision on whether to assume the risk.

Cindy Reuss
Thu, 06/25/2020 - 12:24pm

Curious about what happens to the monthly installments that are being paid for the use of gyms. We’ve paid 4 months now for services we can’t use.

Denise Caputo-Cuenca
Fri, 06/26/2020 - 11:10am

This is a ridiculous ruling. Like any other businesses, gyms have taken the same measures as ALL the businesses opened in the last couple of weeks, including hair salons, nail salons and barbers. Whitmer has literally ruined our state's economy. It will never recover. We have 22% unemployment, third highest in the nation. She is a one term governor and will hopefully be recalled in November. Funny how she got a court data ASAP, while others are pushed to August and beyond. She, like all Democratic run states, are working together to keep states locked down to allow corrupt mail in ballots. Her agenda fits well with the DNC.

Fri, 06/26/2020 - 3:37pm

I like the lines from page 5 of the court's order:

FCC v. Beach Commc’ns, Inc., 508 U.S. 307, 313–15 (1993) (“[B]ecause we never require a legislature to articulate its reasons for enacting a statute, it is entirely irrelevant for constitutional purposes whether the conceived reason for the challenged distinction actually motivated the legislature. hus, the absence of ‘legislative facts’ explaining the distinction ‘on the record’ has no significance in rational-basis analysis.”) (citations omitted). Under this test, the Governor’s action “is not subject to courtroom fact-finding and may be based on rational speculation unsupported by evidence or empirical data.” Id. at 315.

Don't you wish both the legislature and governor had to state reasons for their statutes/executive orders?

Tue, 08/18/2020 - 3:57pm

What is next for the plaintiffs? Are they appealing?