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Family Fitness future is uncertain

To conduct survey to see if members are interested in returning to facility

WARREN — Though Ohio gyms and fitness centers received the green light from a county judge to open six days before state officials planned on Tuesday, Warren’s downtown gym may not reopen until later this year.

Despite a ruling Wednesday by Lake County Common Pleas Court Judge Eugene Lucci stating gymnasiums and fitness centers can’t be penalized for opening as long as they follow state safety guidelines, Trumbull Family Fitness will remain closed until its board conducts a survey questioning whether its members will continue to use and support the downtown center.

The board of Trumbull Family Fitness, 210 High St. NW, is surveying its 2,200 members to determine whether they will return if the club decides to reopen and what types of safety and social distancing changes they would like to see in the 92-year-old building that once housed Warren’s YMCA.

Because gyms were ordered closed by the state to mitigate COVID-19 transmission, the board stopped collecting membership fees

The survey is not expected to be completed until August, said Richard Thompson, board president. Some members will be contacted via email, others through the mail.

If a significant number of members won’t commit to the support of the fitness center, it won’t have the revenue stream needed to continue operations, Thompson said.

“We are membership driven,” he said. “We (board members) thought it was the responsible thing to do to conduct this survey.”

Because of the pandemic, two fundraisers for the center were canceled this year.

The survey questions whether members would consider returning with the end of stay-at-home orders and questions what conditions members expect to be put in place.

“We have to look at regulations designed to limit the number of people that can be within spaces,” Thompson said. “How can we have classes if we’re limited to 10 in a room? What about the operation of swimming pools and the maintenance of locker rooms?

The club is prepared to increase cleaning, but Thompson questioned how it will be able to manage crowds within the club.

“This building doesn’t lend itself to comply with social distancing,” Thompson said.

A large percentage of the center’s members are older, said Jim Brutz, a board member.

“This is the population that’s most affected by COVID-19,” Brutz said. “So we want to know how they feel about returning to this facility.”

But, Brutz said, no decision has been made. As of right now, the shutdown is temporary, he said.

Lucci’s ruling could be challenged if a different county approaches a similar case or it is challenged. If so, then an appeals court could weigh in to settle differing county court cases. But, because gyms and fitness centers were given permission to reopen Tuesday, it isn’t clear if state officials will challenge the ruling that sought to seek limits on the power of the state to implement penalties for not complying with orders from the director of the Ohio Department of Health.

Jonathan Adler, a constitutional law expert and law professor at Case Western Reserve University, told cleveland.com he expects the ruling to be challenged.

State law, developed during the 1918 influenza epidemic, grants the state health department broad authority to act during a public-health emergency, Adler told cleveland.com.

“I am somewhat skeptical that this decision will be upheld,” Adler said. “But it is a useful reminder that just because the government says there’s an emergency doesn’t mean it gets to do whatever it wants.”

rsmith@tribtoday.com

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