Gym owners sue government over COVID-19 closure

By John McPhaulL

A group of gym and fitness center owners and users calling itself Gimnasios Unidos por Puerto Rico (Gymnasiums United for Puerto Rico) has filed a lawsuit requesting that Section 19 of Executive Order 2020-54 mandating the closure of gymnasiums during the COVID-19 emergency be declared unconstitutional, the group announced in a written statement Sunday.

The group made the decision after Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced ordered the closure of their facilities without a scientific study or evidence of contagion in them, the group said.

“This decision [to unilaterally close the gyms] is totally incorrect since there is no evidence of outbreaks or infections originating in our establishments,” said group spokesman Abdiel Lugo. “On the contrary, our focus in the reopening had been through activities in which the precautions recommended by the experts were followed.”

The governor’s determination has deprived gym owners of their livelihood and use of their property, only days after spending large sums of money on protective equipment, the group said.

The plaintiffs are asking the San Juan Superior Court to review the constitutionality of Executive Order 2020-54 since, in their opinion, it intervenes and undermines contractual obligations between them and their clients and violates the freedom of assembly.

In addition, they argued that the government does not have the power to intervene with these rights through an executive order and that to proceed it would have to be done by law.

The gym industry contributes $70 million annually to the island economy.