Sued Vermont gym reopens as outdoor fitness facility
RUTLAND, Vt. (AP) — The owner of a Vermont fitness center who was ordered by a judge to close amid the coronavirus outbreak reopened Tuesday after moving exercise equipment outside into the parking lot as an outdoor facility.
“The goal here is that people are able to continue to work out for their mental, physical and emotional health,” said Sean Manovill, owner of Club Fitness of Vermont in Rutland. It’s not a political statement, he said.
The Vermont attorney general on Friday had sued him and the club for staying open in violation of state rules, and a judge hours later granted a temporary order barring the gym from operating.
Manovill had temporarily stopped operating the gym after the attorney general sent a cease-and-desist letter May 5, but he reopened on Friday, the attorney general’s office said.
A police officer said he saw people exercising without masks and not staying 6 feet (2 meters) apart, the office said. He also did not see any hand-sanitizing stations or signs advising people to wear masks, to maintain social distance or to clean equipment, it said.
Manovill disputes the police accusations and said he closed after getting the judge’s order on Saturday. On Tuesday, he reopened as an outdoor fitness center in the parking lot and said anyone can come and exercise for free. About eight club members showed up by the afternoon, he said.
Elizabeth Brown said she’s been working with a Club Fitness personal trainer since October to be healthier. When the gym closed she realized how important her workouts had become because she started getting depressed, she said.
“When I found that this was opening again, it was like one of the best moments I can say this year because, great, we’re going to start getting healthy again, feeling better, my attitude got better, everything got better,” she said.
The attorney general’s office said a letter outlining permissible outdoor recreation and fitness activities will be sent to Manovill on Wednesday.
“Pursuant to the Governor’s executive orders, fitness centers remain closed. Some outdoor recreation and fitness activities, however, are allowed under certain health and safety conditions,” an office spokesperson said. “According to the Agency of Commerce and Community Development’s sector guidance, such allowable activities include personal training when certain protective measures are followed.”
Shoppers in Vermont’s largest city are required to wear face coverings in stores.
The Burlington City Council voted 11-1 on Monday to go a step further than state regulations that require store employees to wear masks. Gov. Phil Scott said Friday that his order encourages face masks in public, but doesn’t require them, and that municipalities could implement stricter requirements of their own.
“For the most part, I think people really want to feel like they are safe in the shopping environment, and they want to support our downtown businesses, but they can’t do that unless they feel protected,” Burlington Councilor Joan Shannon said.
Retail stores were allowed to reopen to in-person shoppers on Monday at 25% of capacity.
On Tuesday, the Health Department reported four more cases of the coronavirus statewide for a total of 944. The number of deaths remained at 54.
Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.