What happens if businesses told to shut down simply don’t?
Since Kern County is back on the state’s COVID watch list, all gyms, salons, churches, and indoor restaurants were required to close by last Friday the latest. However, there have still been a few businesses that refuse to close, demonstrating how the governor’s shutdown mandate has not been enforced in Kern County.
The governor’s order has not been a deterrent for Bakersfield gym chain, Body Xchange. It has kept its six locations open, even welcoming new members.
Inside the gym, there are temperature checks, mask requirements, forced distancing, and closed amenities. Even with the strictest precautions though, the business not exempt from the governor’s order to close.
Many of their members praised the gym for taking a stand, defying an order they did not believe in. However, other businesses say they don’t need someone to stand up. They need everyone to sit down, even if it means taking a financial hit to follow the order.
“Staying open or whining about having to close down, this is not ideal for anybody, but I would rather shut down than potentially spread,” said Mary Mayeda of local gym, Awesome Fitness.
As a gym owner, she points out the irony of staying open.
“When it comes specifically to gym owners, it’s a little frustrating because we are in the health, fitness, wellness industry, and first and foremost, our client’s health is what we’re worried about,” Mayeda said. “To all the other businesses out there, we feel your pain, but just know we’re all in this together.”
In a statement, Body Xchange said in part:
“We decided to stay open because we feel 100% we are an essential business. We have followed all the guidelines set forth to safely operate. We’ve also closed other amenities such as locker rooms, showers, and aerobics that were not mandated to close to add safety to our clubs. We’ve been 100% compliant and have not been made aware that fitness clubs have contributed to the spikes anywhere.
Last but not least…People need exercise for their health and mental well being. Especially in times like now.
Also we want to be treated fairly which we don’t feel is the case with how decisions are being made.
We can’t control what’s going on outside our gym, but we do and can control what’s happening inside and we are safe and essential!”
Back in May during the first shutdown, Kern Public Health partnered with law enforcement, giving out citations to two businesses that refused to close. One of them included Strength and Health Gym in Downtown Bakersfield. However, for this shutdown, they remain open.
The county has since shifted to an approach they call “reinforcement and education,” rather than threatening fines or jail time.