COVID-19 in Arizona: Boutique fitness studios fight to stay open despite executive order

PHOENIX – Boutique fitness clubs are suing to stay open after a judge last week denied a lawsuit by another gym owner challenging Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order closing gyms and bars.

Ducey’s June 29 order shuttered gyms and bars for 30 days, which led several popular fitness franchises to challenge the order in court. Gyms, bars and restaurants had been ordered closed in March but Ducey allowed them to reopen in May.

Xponential Fitness, a California company that operates multiple studios filed a lawsuit July 1, alleging the governor’s second executive order to close gyms is unconstitutional, devastating and unnecessary, AZFamily reported.

Mountainside Fitness CEO Tom Hatten unsuccessfully sued the state to stay open despite the executive order. In his July 6 ruling, Judge Timothy J. Thomason of Maricopa County Superior Court called the situation “unprecedented.”

“The world is in the midst of a global pandemic. … It is not the function of this court to second-guess” safety mandates from the state, Thomason’s ruling said.

According to AZfamily, Xpotential Fitness attorneys argue it’s unfair to group boutique fitness studios with big-box gyms.

“We believe that COVID is very real and needs to be addressed, but we’ve proven that we’ve done it,” Alex Weingarten, a partner in Xponential Fitness, told AZFamily on Friday, adding that the studios have implemented “advanced safety protocols.”

Xpotential Fitness operates Club Pilates, Cycle Bar, Stretch Lab, Pure Barre, Row House and AKT Fitness in Arizona.

As of Monday, July 13, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 123,824 cases of COVID-19 and 2,245 deaths in the state. It said 899,994 tests for COVID-19 have been completed in public and private labs in Arizona, and 11.9% of tests have come back positive for the novel coronavirus that causes the disease.

Rising rates of ventilator and hospital bed use

Intensive care unit beds and ventilators in use by suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients both hit records on Sunday, according to the hospital data reported. Monday’s dashboard shows 87% of current inpatient beds and 90% of ICU beds were in use, which includes people being treated for COVID-19 and other patients. The Arizona Republic reports the number of emergency room visits and inpatient beds have decreased but the numbers remain high.

Some who received unemployment benefits discover closed accounts

An undetermined number of unemployed Arizonans who had received jobless benefits via a debit card issued by the state Department of Economic Security found their bank accounts closed without explanation late last week, ABC15 reported.

The action apparently affected laid off workers who live in other states, the station said.

“It’s panic mode. It’s panic mode. People woke up this morning with no money,” said Sean Brady, who had $5,134.82 withdrawn from his DES benefits account. Brady lives in Illinois.

The station said Brady and others received an email at 11 p.m. Friday notifying them that their unemployment accounts had been closed at the request of their employers.

In a statement, DES said it was investigating the situation.

Cronkite coverage highlight

Jails across the country are being sued for lack of COVID-19 protections, Cronkite News reports. In Navajo County Jail, inmate Neko Wilson has underlying illnesses that endanger him, and he is seeking release to avoid contracting the deadly illness. He’s behind bars for violating his probation on a marijuana conviction nearly 17 years ago.

How to help

Experts say the isolation caused by sheltering in place can have a real impact on our mental health. To help protect seniors’ mental health, a facility for older people in the Valley has a special program to stay connected, AZfamily reports. Fellowship Square Historic Mesa has been on lockdown since March, and the retirement home is now offering a pen pal program for seniors. The program at the facility includes sending regular letters to residents or making phone calls. To sign up, contact [email protected].

News Reporter, Phoenix

Madison Atkinson is a Bay Area native who expects to graduate in August 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Atkinson primarily works as a broadcast reporter for Cronkite News. She has interned at KGO in San Francisco and reported for The Arizona Republic. “