LINCOLN, R.I. — An owner of fitness clubs in Rhode Island is defying an order from Governor Gina M. Raimondo for all gyms and recreational facilities to close for two weeks as health officials try to slow an alarming spike in COVID-19 cases.
The two-week pause that started Monday closed bars, gyms, and casinos, asks most high school students to learn from home, and orders companies to have most employees work from home.
— Boston Globe Rhode Island (@Globe_RI) November 19, 2020
Matt D’Amico, who owns The Maxx Fitness Clubzz franchises in Lincoln and Warren, opened as usual on Monday, however, and has remained open since then. He said that closing would be financially devastating.
“We did it in March and the shutdown lasted 10, 12 weeks. I just can’t survive it again,” D’Amico said. “It’s not about profitability — it’s landlords, equipment rentals, payroll and staff. And, I don’t think it’s right, when everyone else gets to stay open.”
The Health Department issued $500 fines at both locations and ordered the facilities to close immediately and stay closed until the restrictions are lifted.
But D’Amico has refused to shut down. Both Maxx locations were open and busy Wednesday.
“You can say we’re fighting for freedom. It’s what it is,” D’Amico said. “I invested millions of dollars.”
Raimondo ordered the two-week pause in an attempt to stem the rising wave of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, which led to the opening of field hospitals on Monday. Rhode Island was up to 59,005 confirmed coronavirus cases on Wednesday, with 1,032 new cases, 11 more deaths, and 408 people hospitalized.
The governor’s office and Health Department referred questions about Maxx Fitness Clubzz to the state Department of Business Regulation, where a spokesman declined to comment “as it is an ongoing and actively evolving situation.”
The fitness clubs are the first businesses to be cited since the pause began on Monday. “I have legal counsel, and we’ll take it day by day,” D’Amico said. “I don’t think fitness centers should be singled out… I believe I have constitutional rights to be able to operate my business.”
D’Amico said his fitness centers have complied with other coronavirus-related all of the Health regulations, keeping the facilities clean and screening staff and customers for COVID-19 symptoms. Health officials told them that some visitors to the fitness centers had tested positive for COVID, but they inspected the facilities and found no problems, he said.
“We have a bunch of customers, and a lot of new members are signing up,” Stephen Couture, the manager of the Lincoln club, said Wednesday.
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Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials have fined Courthouse Club Fitness $90,000 for defying Gov. Kate Brown’s COVID-19 order and remaining open throughout the two-week freeze.
Officials with OSHA, the agency tasked with enforcing compliance to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, said the penalty is the result of citations against each of the club’s four facilities.
Courthouse officials did not immediately respond to request for comment Wednesday.
“The total penalty for each individual inspection is $22,500,” said Mark Peterson, acting spokesman for OSHA . “That’s a willful penalty of $17,500 for being open to the public and a separate $5,000 penalty for violating the Red Warning Notices that we posted at each location late last week.”
Courthouse Club Fitness in Keizer on Wednesday, Nov. 18. Courthouse Fitness planned to stay open during Gov. Kate Brown’s two-week “freeze,” which directs gyms to close. (Photo: BRIAN HAYES / STATESMAN JOURNAL)
He said Courthouse leadership continued to operate their fitness centers despite OSHA’s inquiries and warnings.
Before the statewide freeze went into effect on Nov. 18, Courthouse owner John Miller said in a statement that a second shutdown would push his business to the breaking point.
More: Judge denies Oregon restaurants’ lawsuit over COVID-19 ‘freeze’ restrictions
“As a result of the harm done to our business from the first shutdown, we will not survive another closure,” Miller said. “This is a horrible position I find myself in, and it leaves me with only one choice. Courthouse Club Fitness will remain open (Nov. 18) and the days to follow.”
New Oregon COVID mandates announced
On Wednesday, Brown said 21 Oregon counties will continue to be under restrictions when a two-week “freeze” expires Dec. 3.
Both Marion and Polk counties are among those 21 “extreme risk” counties.
In the extreme-risk counties, some restrictions will change. Restaurants and bars will be able to reopen for outdoor dining, although the state is still encouraging takeout instead. Capacity limits in stores and malls will be capped at 50%, down from the current 75%. Church activities will be limited to 25% of capacity or 100 people, whichever is smaller.
Guide: What new Oregon restrictions in each COVID-19 risk category mean
Indoor gyms will remain closed.
During the initial freeze, Courthouse and Flex Fitness in Salem stated their intentions to remain open but stressed being in accordance with mandates such as social distancing, wearing masks and rigorous sanitation practices.
“Just because we’re drawing a line doesn’t mean we’re throwing everything out the window in terms of health and safety,” Courthouse vice president Drew Baker told the Statesman Journal.
Oregon OSHA has been fining businesses
Since the beginning of the pandemic, about 50 citations have been issued to businesses for not complying with parts of the pandemic orders by OSHA, which is designed to protect employees.
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A Quebec dentist and his partner were fined $1,500 each on Monday after Cayman Island authorities charged them with breaking the territory’s quarantine rules.
Dr. Pascal Terjanian, a controversial dentist who practises in Montreal and Terrebonne, and Christina Gurunian pleaded guilty to the charges during a court appearance via a video link on Monday.
Upon arrival at the airport on Nov. 13, they were fitted with electronic tracker wristbands and escorted to an apartment complex where they were supposed to isolate for 14 days because of the pandemic.
Police were called to the complex after staff notified them that the couple had left the apartment.
Gurunian, 34, failed to wear her mask upon arrival at the complex and on several other occasions when she walked from her apartment to put garbage in the dumpster, a Cayman news outlet reported.
According to the court file, the managers became suspicious of Terjanian and Gurunian after they both requested numerous favours, which prompted them to review the complex’s CCTV footage, said Andrel Harris, a reporter with the Caymen Compass.
According to the court file, which Harris said he consulted, both Terjenian and Gurunian were observed outside of their apartment without their geo-fencing wristbands and were seen swimming in the ocean at the back of the property.
In an interview with the Montreal Gazette, Gurunian disputed many of the allegations. She said the only time she violated quarantine was when she took trash to the dumpster.
The couple decided to plead guilty to all the charges because her aunt died last weekend and she wanted to return home to Quebec to be with her family.
“Our lawyer said to plead guilty to the charges because, otherwise, we would not have been able to leave the country,” she said.
She claims that two officers came to their door on Monday and notified them of the court appearance. She said she never saw any of the CCTV footage that the police claim shows them violating quarantine rules.
“I never did those things,” she said.
Gurunian also denied that she tampered with her monitoring bracelet. She said Terjanian wore his bracelet farther up his arm because he wears a watch on his wrist.
The couple left the Cayman Islands on Tuesday after they had two negative COVID-19 tests. They are not allowed to return to the islands while COVID-19 restrictions are in place.
Following the incident, the government will now require travellers to pass through an additional checkpoint at the airport to ensure the tracking bracelet has been fitted correctly, Dr. Tasha Ebanks-Garcia, the director of Travel Cayman, said in a news release.
Terjanian, 52, who was once called a public menace by the Quebec Order of Dentists , has been the subject of many complaints about pricey, shoddy and painful dental work dating back to 1997.
In 2014, he was suspended from practising dentistry for 30
Officials of Rapid Action Battalion seen conducting a raid at Crescent Diagnostic and Consultation Center in the capital’s Uttara area on Wednesday, November 4, 2020 Dhaka Tribune
The raid was conducted on Wednesday night
A mobile court of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) has fined the laboratory in-charge of Crescent Diagnostic and Consultation Center in Dhaka’s Uttara Tk10 lakh over different violations.
The violations include keeping expired medicines and having surgeries performed without a doctor, according to the elite force.
The raid on Wednesday night was led by Executive Magistrate Palash Kumar Basu. It was ongoing until 11pm.
Over the past few months, mobile courts had raided multiple diagnostic centres in Dhaka and elsewhere and handed out punishments and fines over various violations.