Health department closes South Jersey gym that defied shutdown order

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Thursday, May 21, 2020
NJ health officials shut down gym that defied orders
A South Jersey gym has been ordered to shut down by state health officials.

BELLMAWR, New Jersey (WPVI) -- New Jersey health officials have closed a Camden County gym that defied the statewide shutdown order to reopen earlier this week.

Atilis Gym in Bellmawr gained national attention when it allowed members to go inside and workout on Monday despite Governor Phil Murphy's order.

On Wednesday, the New Jersey Department of Health issued an emergency closure order for the gym.

For App Users, Click Here to View New Jersey Department Emergency Closure Order

"If they took a moment to step inside our doors, most of what's on that paper would fall apart very quickly," said Atilis Gym co-owner Ian Smith.

Smith said they'll remain closed for now as they face the possibility of their business being seized as well as criminal charges.

According to Smith, they're consulting lawyers and plan to reopen Friday to a large number of members.

"This has become personal for us because this is a blatant attack on our constitutional rights directly," said co-owner Frank Trumbetti.

The order said that as the state allows outdoor recreation with restrictions, interactions at certain indoor operations "continue to present a significant risk," so those restrictions have not been lifted.

"Indoor gyms and fitness centers present particularly high-risk settings for the spread of COVID-19, in part because customers of these facilities engage in physical activities that increase the customers' respiratory activity, which in turn can increase the amount of respiratory droplets or aerosols in a confined setting," the order read.

Health officials said gyms require the communal use of equipment such as barbells and treadmills that may harbor the virus and "according to the National Institutes of Health, the virus may live on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours."

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According to the department, Atilis Gym has continued to operate in non-compliance with the governor's executive order which they say poses a threat to the public.

"Although Atilis Gym is purporting to take its own measures to address COVID-19 transmission, Atilis Gym is not approved to reopen under the terms of Executive Order No. 107, which reflect a judgment that it will not be administrable, enforceable, and/or otherwise sufficiently protective of public safety to simply allow businesses owners to set their own divergent health measures, done without approval of the State and its health officials," the order said.

Health officials said that Atilis' safety measures to address COVID-19 transmission do not sufficiently address the risks of the coronavirus in an indoor gym. The order said "the community presence of the virus is still too great to allow for relaxation of the current mitigation measures that are in place and necessary to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 that commonly occurs in such congregate indoor settings."

The department said it has the power to "close, direct and compel the evacuation of, or to decontaminate or cause to be decontaminated, any facility of which there is reasonable cause to believe that it may endanger the public health."

The department ordered Atilis Gym to be closed until further notice. Under the order, no members of the public, including members of the gym, are permitted inside the facility.

The closure remains in effect until it is lifted by the department.

Supporters gather outside of Atilis Gym prior to reopening

"Failure to comply with the conditions of this order may result in criminal sanctions and/or civil penalties," the order read.

The Camden County Division of Environmental Health placed an embargo notice on the window.

A co-owner of the gym told Action News the sewer system backed up Wednesday and a plumber came to fix that problem. They said the system was clogged with paper towels, but said they only use paper towels in the gym and provide electric hand dryers in the restrooms.

The owners aren't sure how it happened and said they hope it wasn't something malicious.


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