LOS ANGELES – A lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County by gym owners statewide seeking a relaxation of coronavirus health orders should be dismissed because the human toil of the pandemic is indisputable with thousands of deaths statewide, the state Attorney General’s Office argues in court papers.
“Fitness centers and gyms are high-risk environments for the transmission of COVID-19,” Deputy Attorney General Brian S. Chan states in court papers filed Thursday arguing in favor of tossing the California Fitness Alliance suit. “They often contain high-density groups, congregating and breathing heavily in closed areas at the same time.”
Unlike patrons of grocery stores, visitors to fitness centers often stop by multiple times per week, according to Chan’s court papers.
“When an infectious individual in a setting such as a fitness center unwittingly spreads the COVID-19 virus, numerous individuals may be infected and these individuals in turn may infect members of their households and other individuals whom they meet,” Chan wrote.
In their complaint filed Sept. 14 in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the CFA argues that the state and Los Angeles County should discontinue preventing Californians from having what the plaintiffs maintain is equitable and safe access to indoor fitness centers and the proven benefits, including maximizing their resilience to COVID-19. They say it is vital to one’s physical and mental health.
The suit asks that Gov. Gavin Newsom‘s stay-at-home order be ended and that a judge find that Los Angeles County officials abused their discretion by refusing to allow fitness establishments to reopen indoor operations after the closure order was issued July 13.
According to Chan’s court papers, California has been more successful than other states in limiting the spread of COVID-19 and reducing the number of deaths and hospitalizations. Gyms and fitness centers are a particularly high-risk setting for the coronavirus to pass to others through aerosolized droplets, and the CFA is asking the court to “sweep aside the very measures that have helped contain the virus’s spread in California because, in its view, the emergency no longer exists,” he wrote.
In an attempt to invalidate orders requiring its gyms to operate outdoors or at reduced capacity depending on the epidemiological conditions of the county in which they operate, the CFA argues that the orders exceed the governor’s authority and that Newsom had a mandatory duty to terminate the state of emergency on June 1, when a certain level of deaths and hospitalizations that Newsom projected as a possibility did not occur, Chan’s court papers state.
Alternatively, the CFA argues that the Emergency Services Act itself is invalid, according to Chan.
“First, the facts speak for themselves,” Chan wrote. “Over 13,000 people in California have died since early June when (the CFA) claims the state should have rescinded its public health measures and COVID-19 has become the third-largest cause of death in the state.”
The court should “resist (the CFA’s) invitation to substitute (its) desire to reopen fitness centers in the place of the judgment of the state’s top health officers in the effective steps for combating a global pandemic,” Chan states in his court papers. “The human and economic toll of COVID-19 is indisputable.”
The measures the state has taken are “directly related to slowing and stopping the spread of this highly infectious and dangerous disease,” he added.
A hearing on the state’s dismissal motion is scheduled Jan. 22 before Judge Mark V. Mooney.
On Nov. 13, Mooney is scheduled to hear a separate state motion seeking to prevent the CFA from deposing either an official in Newsom’s administration familiar with the pandemic-related orders or Dr. Sonia Angell, the state’s former public health officer who resigned in August, until after the dismissal motion is heard.