The owner of a local gym ran up against another legal roadblock in his quest to reopen his facility.
John A. Mendez, U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of California, ruled on Friday to deny a temporary restraining order requested by Sean Covell and Best Supplement Guide, LLC., against California Gov. Gavin Newsom and San Joaquin County, that would have allowed him to reopen his Fitness System gym, with locations in Lodi, Sacramento and West Sacramento.
Covell filed the 42-page lawsuit for the restraining order, alleging that the state and county stay-at-home order, which required gyms to close to the public, was unconstitutional.
On Friday, Mendez ruled that “The restrictions imposed by the State and County orders are exacting. But they are also temporary, rooted in science, and proportional to the threat COVID-19 poses.”
The ruling later added that “For the third time in less than a month, this Court finds the State and County orders, as is and as currently applied, are a constitutional response to an unprecedented pandemic. Plaintiffs continued compliance with these orders are essential to the well being of the general public. The continued performance of this critical civic duty (i.e. remaining temporarily closed) will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and save lives. For this, plaintiffs and all gym owners similarly situated are to be commended.”
The legal brouhaha began with the state and county stay-at-home orders that were issued on March 20 ordering residents to stay home except for essential activities to prevent the spread of COVID-19. An April 14 amendment to the San Joaquin order specifically required all gyms to close.
In late april, Covell announced he would reopen against the county’s wishes. The court ruling said that on April 30, three Lodi police officers arrived “at the Lodi gym with a letter from County Counsel. The officers informed Covell that reopening the gym would result in civil, administrative, and criminal penalties.”
Covell backed away from reopening, and instead went to the courts. A day after Sacramento County health officials reversed their approval for fitness centers to reopen, the court’s ruling denied Covell’s claim as to the unconstitutionality of the stay-at-home order.
“The Court is under no illusion that compliance with the State and County stay at home orders is easy or not causing economic hardships,” Mendez wrote in his analysis. “The changes to daily life caused by the restrictions these orders impose range from uncomfortable to crippling, depending on each person’s circumstances. But neither the County order, generally, nor its gym closures, specifically, amount to “virtual imprisonment” such that it violates Plaintiffs’ right to liberty under the cases Plaintiffs cite.”