Plainview fitness center responds to lawsuit to shut down

In the 22-page memorandum in opposition to the temporary restraining order filed by the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office last week, attorney Vincent J. Fahnlander asked a judge to deny the state’s request for a temporary restraining order.

The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit against Plainview Wellness Center and its owner, Brandon Reiter, on Nov. 24.

RELATED: Minnesota Attorney General’s Office files lawsuit against Plainview fitness center

The lawsuit alleged that Reiter’s fitness center is violating Gov. Tim Walz’s Executive Order 20-99 — which ordered that fitness centers and other places of entertainment close, and that bars and restaurants suspend indoor service, for four weeks — by remaining open past when the order went into effect.

Plainview Fitness Center has been in business since 2013. Earlier this year, Reiter reopened his gym on May 1, which was in defiance of the initial stay-at-home order.

“Rather than close again, Reiter choses to keep PWC open with even more safety protocols in place than the big box stores and other opened businesses are using,” the filing reads. “Mr. Reiter believes it is discrimination for the Executive Orders to close his small business, while large businesses, with frequent more and more close contact by shoppers, remain open.”

Arguing against the state’s request for a temporary restraining order, Fahnlander says the state’s argument that gyms and health clubs are a significant source of outbreaks has been “debunked.”

According to the AG’s filing, the Minnesota Department of Health’s contact-tracing investigations have shown that apart from long-term care settings, gyms are among the settings most frequently associated with COVID-19 outbreaks in the state. MDH has traced 49 outbreaks and 750 cases of COVID-19 to gyms in the state.

Fahnlander also argues that less-restrictive alternatives exist to protect public health. The filing cites research conducted by Mayo Clinic that concluded that mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing work well in halting or slowing the transmission of COVID-19.

If a judge were to grant the state’s request of a temporary restraining order, Reiter and his fitness center “faces irreparable harm,” he wrote.

“The State waves this away as ‘temporarily closing to the public for four weeks.’ However, in practice this is likely to mean irreparable injury to and perhaps even the death of Defendant’s business,” the filing states. “This is in addition to the detriments to the health and mental and emotional wellbeing of the people who depend on Defendant’s business.”

The filing also argues that Executive Order 20-99 is unconstitutional and the governor overstepped his authority and violated the separation of powers.

“The Executive Order violates Defendant’s constitutional rights, as some activity is allowed, while other activity of equal or more danger is barred,” the filing states. “There is no rational basis for treating the Defendant differently than the other indoor facilities in which people are allowed to gather. The State has provided no evidence that exercise has been shown to lead to an increase in Covid-19 transmissions, instead, relying on studies that examine completely

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‘Nobody wants to see the gyms shut down’: Fitness centers cope with new COVID masking rules

RedZone Fitness in Weston has never known life without restrictions.

The gym opened in July, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the facility’s members and staff have had to grapple with sanitizing, masking and socially distancing requirements ever since. That said, given the smallness of classes, patrons were able to stay far enough apart that they didn’t have to wear masks while working out, said Elana Goldblatt, part owner, studio manager and lead coach at RedZone Fitness

“People had to wear a mask while walking to their spot (and elsewhere in the gym),” Goldblatt said — just not while working out.

That has changed.

On Nov. 20, Gov. Ned Lamont signed an executive order that, among things, required patrons of all gyms and fitness centers in the state to wear masks at all times, “with no exceptions.”

Previously, establishments didn’t have to require that patrons wear a mask during workouts as long as they maintained at least 12 feet of social distance while exercising. The capacity limit at gyms was also reduced, from 50 percent to 25 percent.

The new regulations are an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Connecticut, which has spiked over the past several weeks. Requiring face coverings at all times can be potentially helpful in the gym environment, said Keith Grant, senior system director of infection prevention for Hartford HealthCare.

“One of the primary (COVID-19) symptoms that we’re most concerned with is coughing,” Grant said during a Tuesday press conference. “The mechanics of coughing is moving the actual particles forward. That is also seen with an increase in the rate of breathing, such as that which happen with exercising.”

Wearing a mask can help prevent those particles from being pushed out, and can keep spread down, Grant said.

Goldblatt said the new restrictions pose some challenges for clients. The gym offers different classes every day and, on Monday, the first day of classes at the gym following the mask requirement, RedZone had a cardio workout class.

“It was hard on Monday because it was a very intense day and the very first day (people were) wearing a mask to work out,” Goldblatt said. “But I think the longer you wear mask while working out, the easier it is. It’s like working out — the first day you do it is going be harder than the fifth day.”

It is another hurdle at a time that’s been full of them, but Goldblatt said if the new guidelines allow gyms like RedZone to remain operational, she and her clients will try to take them in stride.

“We are open,” Goldblatt said. “We still have clients. I will take this as a win.”

Greta Wagner, executive director of Chelsea Piers in Stamford, had a similar attitude. Before the new regulations, she said, “We had a few mask-free zones where people could work out because we had 12-foot distancing. It was very appreciated by clients. It made it much more enjoyable, when people could work out

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The Trump Administration Shut a Vaccine Safety Office Last Year. What’s the Plan Now?

As the first coronavirus vaccines arrive in the coming year, government researchers will face a monumental challenge: monitoring the health of hundreds of millions of Americans to ensure the vaccines don’t cause harm.

Purely by chance, thousands of vaccinated people will have heart attacks, strokes and other illnesses shortly after the injections. Sorting out whether the vaccines had anything to do with their ailments will be a thorny problem, requiring a vast, coordinated effort by state and federal agencies, hospitals, drug makers and insurers to discern patterns in a flood of data. Findings will need to be clearly communicated to a distrustful public swamped with disinformation.

For now, Operation Warp Speed, created by the Trump administration to spearhead development of coronavirus vaccines and treatments, is focused on getting vaccines through clinical trials in record time and manufacturing them quickly.

The next job will be to monitor the safety of vaccines once they’re in widespread use. But the administration last year quietly disbanded the office with the expertise for exactly this job. Its elimination has left that long-term safety effort for coronavirus vaccines fragmented among federal agencies, with no central leadership, experts say.

“We’re behind the eight ball,” said Daniel Salmon, who served as the director of vaccine safety in that office from 2007 to 2012, overseeing coordination during the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009. ”We don’t even know who’s in charge.”

An H.H.S. spokeswoman declined to answer detailed questions about why the vaccine office, set up in 1987, was closed or how the health agencies were planning to track the safety of vaccines once they are injected into millions of people. In a brief statement, she said that Operation Warp Speed was working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “to synchronize the IT systems” involved in monitoring vaccine safety data.

Scientists at the C.D.C. and the Food and Drug Administration have decades of experience tracking the long-term safety of vaccines. They’ve created powerful computer programs that can analyze large databases.

“It’s like satellites looking at the weather,” said Dr. Bruce Gellin, the president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, who headed the National Vaccine Program Office from 2002 to 2017.

But monitoring hundreds of millions of Americans who may get different coronavirus vaccines from a variety of drug makers by summer is like tracking a major storm beyond anything researchers have dealt with before.

The closest parallel was in the spring of 2009, when a new strain of H1N1 influenza emerged, and researchers raced to make a vaccine. From October 2009 to January 2010, it was administered to over 82 million people in the United States.

As the vaccine was developed, Dr. Gellin and other federal officials and scientists organized a system to monitor the population for severe side effects and to promptly share results with the public. Eleven years later, it looks like the lessons of 2009 are being forgotten, experts say.

“We got all these different agencies together, we created governance around it, we created a

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New England ice rinks shut down after coronavirus case clusters emerge linked to hockey

Health officials are concerned that indoor ice hockey could result in the spread of coronavirus this winter in several New England states, according to The Washington Post.

Massachusetts ordered all indoor ice rinks and skating facilities to close on Thursday, citing the 108 probable or confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been found to be linked to hockey games and their practices, according to a press release.

“This pause will allow for the development of stronger COVID-19 protocols to further protect players, families, coaches, arena staff and other participants, as well as communities surrounding hockey rinks,” the release stated.

New Hampshire made a similar move earlier in October. Health officials identified nearly 158 cases connected to hockey over a two-month period within the state, according to a press briefing held by Gov. Chris Sununu (R).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also released a study in October that revealed that 14 out of 22 Florida hockey players suffered COVID-19 symptoms following a game at an indoor arena in June. 

“The indoor space and close contact between players during a hockey game increase infection risk for players and creates potential for a superspreader event, especially with ongoing community COVID-19 transmission,” according to the study.

Youth hockey games in Maine were canceled after one referee contracted the virus and potentially exposed nearly 400 people over the course of one weekend, according to the Portland Press Herald.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) issued a ban this month to keep rinks from taking new reservations for two weeks and will potentially add more restrictions, according to a news release.

Other states across the U.S. are preparing to brace for the winter amid spikes in coronavirus cases. The country has seen a total of 71,671 new cases and 865 deaths since Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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Florida’s schools shouldn’t shut down because of COVID-19 infections, Gov. DeSantis says

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Closing schools for months at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic was a mistake that won’t be repeated, and only students who develop symptoms should be isolated, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday.

During a visit to a charter school in Jacksonville, the governor said over 60% of the state’s 2.8 million students in pre-K to 12th grade are getting in-person instruction, and it’s an increasingly popular option because infection risks are low.

“Going forward, whatever the future may hold, school closures should be off the table,” DeSantis said. “They don’t do anything to mitigate COVID, but they do cause catastrophic damage to the physical, mental and social well being of our youth. Let’s not repeat any mistakes of the past.”

The governor said that after two months of most schools in the state being open, there have not been major outbreaks or causes of concern about the virus spreading among students.

“It’s obviously even more clear now that schools are not drivers of spreading coronavirus, and schools need to be open,” he said. “It is a bad public health policy to have schools closed.”

When asked about schools that have had cases of infected students, DeSantis said it doesn’t make sense to force their classmates to quarantine for two weeks unless they are having virus symptoms.

“You should not be quarantining healthy students,” he said, adding that schools shouldn’t “throw in the towel” and close because of a few sick kids.

Joined by Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, DeSantis did not mention statewide teacher union opposition to school openings, amid concerns about risks to faculty members.

“Now pretty much everyone acknowledges that having schools open is the right thing to do,” he said.

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