Jacksonville gym reopens despite Governor Cooper’s phase two order

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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Gyms and fitness centers are not allowed to be open under the North Carolina’s reopening phase two order. But some businesses in the east are operating in spite of the order.

Fit4Life in Jacksonville reopened its doors this past Monday after being closed for more than two months.

General Manager Eric Vaudreuil says Governor Cooper’s decision to exclude gyms out of phase two is unfair. He says Fit4Life in Jacksonville spent thousands of dollars preparing to reopen when gyms were part of the original phase two plan.

Customers and the manager say fitness facilities should be considered essential businesses.

“I feel like it’s a lot safer to come in here and build that immune system up, work on that physical health, that mental health which is very important for our veterans,” said Vaudreuil.

Samantha Bivin, a member at the gym said, “It’s mental therapy for me, prior service, PTSD so not having that opportunity to have somewhere positive to unplug at…is actually more ​damaging to me than what’s going on right now.” ​

People like Bivin are not concerned about stepping inside fitness facilities during a health crisis. She is confident that the staff keeps the facility clean and safe.

Customers’ temperatures are checked at the front door and employees supply them with cleaning supplies. ​

But the safety measures are not okay with the Jacksonville Police Department. Vaudreuil says officers have given him several warnings.

“We’re going to take the warnings as they come, we don’t plan on closing down soon,” said Vaudreuil.

When asked about businesses violating state orders, Jacksonville Police Chief Mike Yaniero said,

“The responsibility of the Jacksonville Police Department is to uphold the constitution and enforce North Carolina State Law when a clearly established law has been obviously violated.  We have broad authority to enforce these laws ranging from a verbal warning to arrests.  If we receive any complaints of a possible violation of Governors Coopers’ executive orders, we have a responsibility to respond to the call for services just as we would to any other call for service.  Our staff has been in contact with our District Attorney Ernie Lee for guidance  on the Governor’s orders with the ultimate goal is to establish voluntary compliance.”

Vaudreuil said “I respect what they’re doing, they got a lot going. We respect their decisions to write those warnings.”

Fit4Life’s owner filed to get a temporary restraining order against the Governor’s phase two plan. His claim argues gyms should be able to reopen without law enforcement interference.

At last word, a judge is still deciding the fate of the legal challenge.

Thursday afternoon, a state bill that would allow gyms, yoga studios, and fitness centers to reopen, unanimously passed a senate committee.

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