(Courthouse Club Fitness)

Due to the mandated two-week freeze ordered by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to stop the spread of COVID-19, the vast majority of restaurants and gyms will be temporarily closed to the public.

However, one company has elected to defy Brown’s orders.

On Monday, Nov. 16, Courthouse Club Fitness, which has one location in Keizer and four others in Salem, shared on its Facebook page that they will be remaining open during the two-week freeze, which went into effect on Wednesday, Nov. 18.

“As a result of the harm done to our business from the first shutdown, we will not survive another closure. This is a horrible position I find myself in, and it leaves me with only one choice. Courthouse Club Fitness will remain open on Wednesday and the days to follow,” Courthouse owner and Keizer resident John Miller said in a statement.

Miller shared that, since contact tracing began in May, the Marion County Health Department confirmed that there has been no transmission of COVID-19 traced to the Courthouse — even though Oregon Health officials have only been able to trace approximately 58% of COVID-19 cases from Oct. 1 to Nov. 10, not a single outbreak has been linked to an Oregon gym during that timespan.

The Courthouse will continue to enforce mask wearing and social distancing guidelines, as well as diligent sanitation protocols. There will also be a 50% capacity limit.

Miller also noted that physical therapy, youth sports and massage are allowed under Brown’s order due to the impact on mental and emotional health, noting that gyms provide those same outlets for people.

“This is not a decision I take lightly, and I understand some may not agree. At the end of the day, I am convinced staying open is the best and most responsible for our members, our staff, and our community,” Miller said.

A spokesperson for Brown said that non-compliance with the two-week freeze could result in a Class C Misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 30 days in jail, a fine of up to $1,250, or both.

“All of the two-week freeze measures are enforceable by law upon both businesses and individuals, specifically, a Class C Misdemeanor. OSHA will coordinate with other state and local agencies in enforcing the two-week freeze measures relating to businesses,” Gov. Brown’s press secretary Liz Merah said. “Penalties, if issued, depend upon a number of factors, including the investigating agency, the size of the employer, the nature of the violation and the employer’s good or poor faith in attempting to comply.”

Bill Post, Republican State Representative for Oregon House District 25, offered his support for Miller and the Courthouse via Facebook.

“I am proud of my fellow Keizerite and look forward to hearing from more businesses in House District 25 who understand that locking down where a “lockdown” is not necessary only hurts our working folks,” Post said. “It’s one thing to tell businesses “stick it to her” but another for that business to be fined $1,000’s.” 

Post was also one of 14 local politicians that asked Gov. Brown to reconsider her two-week freeze order in a letter that was sent on Tuesday, Nov. 17 — the letter included signatures from Keizer Mayor Cathy Clark and Marion County Commissioner Elect Danielle Bethell.

“We recognize the threat that COVID-19 poses to our community and support data driven decisions to limit the spread of this disease, but we do not support the mandate to close gyms, churches, and restaurants as it is not supported by historical data and will only address a small fraction of Oregon’s COVID cases at the cost of thousands of jobs and hundreds of businesses,” the letter read.

“Combined, cases that can be traced back to churches, restaurants and gyms make up less than 1% of all the recorded COVID cases in Oregon. Quite simply, there is no actual evidence that restaurants, gyms or churches are driving COVID in our community. In fact, because of the adherence to mask wearing and social distancing, these establishments have been some of the safest in the state.”