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Gyms in lower Michigan remain closed in decision by three-judge federal panel

free weights and exercise machines inside gym
Mark Bertulfo
Gyms outside of northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula that were supposed to be allowed to reopen Thursday will remain closed.

Most Michiganders will have to wait a little longer before they can return to exercising inside a gym.

A three-judge panel from the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling late Wednesday night siding with Governor Gretchen Whitmer's decision to keep gyms closed in 66 counties across lower Michigan.

Gyms were supposed to be allowed to reopen at midnight Thursday under a decision by U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney.

In a ruling on June 19, he said state lawyers didn't show enough evidence on why gyms should stay closed while other businesses are now open.

"Unfortunately, on the record before it, the court has not been presented with any evidence that shows a rational relation between the continued closure of indoor gyms and the preservation of public health," Maloney said in his decision,” Maloney wrote in his decision.

But the judges from the appeals court disagreed.

Although the panel sympathizes that gym owners face a "very real risk" of losing their businesses, Whitmer's interest in fighting COVID-19 is "at least equally significant” and crises "call for quick, decisive measures to save lives."

Whitmer’s office responded positively to the news.

“[On Wednsday] 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. The governor will continue to take the actions necessary to save lives,” Whitmer press secretary Tiffany Brown said in a statement.

Gyms can offer outdoor classes and workouts as long as members stick to social distancing guidelines. Whitmer shut gyms and fitness centers months ago to curb the coronavirus. Northern Michigan gyms and fitness centers were allowed to open on June 10.

Whitmer said gyms, movie theaters and bowling alleys could reopen by July 4 if COVID-19 cases continue to trend downward.

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Lauren Talley is Michigan Radio’s Morning Edition producer. She produces and edits studio interviews and feature stories, and helps manage the “Mornings in Michigan” series. Lauren also serves as the lead substitute host for Morning Edition.
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