OXFORD (CBS) – A gym owner in Oxford opened his doors on Monday, despite Gov. Charlie Baker’s determination that his business will fall into Phase 3 of the state’s coronavirus reopening plan.
Dave Blondin announced Sunday on his Facebook page that he planned to open Prime Fitness & Nutrition Monday regardless of what Baker said in his announcement that day. Blondin said he would be allowing members to work out in a one hour time slot with 25 people upstairs and 25 people downstairs at a time.
“I also would like to call upon all other gyms in Massachusetts to do the same. Whether you’re big, whether you’re small, whether you’re a studio, whatever you are, start opening your doors,” said Blondin in his Facebook video. “We’re all in this together. If Walmart that’s right down the street can sit there and have 356 cars there, then we can work out.”
In the video, Blondin urged his customers “Please for the love of God, do not wear a mask in here. I do not need people passing out because they can’t breathe.”
Blondin told WBZ-TV that he was issued a verbal warning by Oxford Police on Monday for operating the gym. On Tuesday, he was issued a written warning.
— Paul Burton (@PaulWBZ) May 19, 2020
“I think this has been going on way too long. Enough is enough. Businesses need to get back to work,” he told WBZ. “People need to make money. If people want this gym to be open, bills need to be paid. Also, for people’s mental health it’s getting really, really bad out there. People are suffering day in and day out because they don’t have their outlet to work out.”
A nurse who treats coronavirus patients in Worcester was among the members arriving Tuesday to work out. He said he believes it was safe to do.
“I think it’s a great idea. It definitely helps with the mental health of people and things like that. It definitely makes sense with the way they’re doing it,” the nurse said. “I don’t think there’s any issue going on whatsoever.”
The gym, which has been in business for about three years, has 800 members.
Blondin said members have said they are willing to help pay any fines he receives. He added that if fines begin to stack up, he will start an online fundraising page and donate any excess funds to charity.
Businesses such as gyms will be allowed to reopen in Phase 3 of the state’s plan, though there is not yet a date associated with the phase.
Gov. Charlie Baker’s office issued a statement when asked about the gym.
The Administration is thankful that millions of individuals and countless businesses are playing their part to slow the spread and protect at risk individuals. All businesses have a responsibility to follow the mandatory workplace safety standards, and enforcement, if necessary, will be handled by state and local agencies.
There are four levels of enforcement for coronavirus standards that can be issued – a verbal warning, written redirection, fines up to $300, and a cease and desist letter.
Oxford Town Manager Jennifer Callahan, Police Chief Anthony Saad and Board of Health agent Thomas Purcell released a joint statement Tuesday afternoon regarding the gym.
“We have received many angry calls and emails from residents calling on the town to shutter this business immediately,” said Callahan. “Let it be clear, the town will take all measures necessary to ensure compliance, but will follow the procedures outlined by enforcement guidance. If necessary, we are prepared to file an injunction should compliance not be reached per such guidance.”
There have been 51 people in Oxford who tested positive from coronavirus with eight deaths, according to the town.