California Gym Owner Backtracks on Plan to Defy COVID-19 Lockdown by Reopening, Blames 'Unconstitutional Harassment'

A gym owner in California who planned to reopen his businesses after being forced to close amid the coronavirus outbreak has reversed his decision after officials said his members face arrests and fines.

Sean Covell, who owns three Fitness System franchises across the Sacramento area, announced to his members in a letter that he will be defying the state's "stay at home order" and reopening his doors again to the public on Friday, believing the restrictions are violating his constitutional rights.

The gyms were closed as part of California Gov. Gavin Newsome's order enacted on March 19 to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"The last few months have undoubtedly been some of the hardest in our lifetimes," the letter reads.

"We have essentially been under house arrest, individuals and businesses have seen the trampling of their constitutional rights, people have been terrorized by the news, and politicians have been dispensing misleading information, half-truths and headlines to cause panic.

"Citizens have been encouraged by politicians to call the police on people they 'suspect are violating the stay at home orders.' People just trying to live their lives are being shamed for going outside to get sunlight and exercise.

"Businesses have been called 'killers' for trying to provide for their employees and their families," the letter said. "Today, we aim to make sure these violations never happen again.

Covell said he planned on opening his businesses at midnight on May 1 when the current health orders in Sacramento and Yolo counties are set to expire.

However, officials warned that the restrictions look set to be put in place beyond the original deadline, meaning Covell will be in violation of the rules if his gyms open.

Posting on Instagram, Covell said that he has now reversed his decision and will keep his gyms closed after receiving a warning letter from the county.

"It appears that the Lodi Police Department and other agencies have made it clear they will be pursuing their unconstitutional harassment of small business owners. You are destroying the communities you swore to serve. Shame," Covell wrote.

"My attorney Brian Chavez-Ochoa has advised that as the police intend on making arrests and fining members, we will close the clubs until we are granted injunctive relief by a judge. Federal court here we come."

Speaking to Newsweek, Covell said he is "terrified about our communities crumbling" and people not getting enough exercise amid the lockdown.

"It's a sad day that people are condemning businesses for opening when they make up the community. You rights come from your humanity. Not the state.

"I look forward to reminding people of this through our attorneys and the media," he added. "We will not stop fighting to remind people they are free people. Even in times of crisis."

(File photo) Man runs on a treadmill at Workout Anytime Powder Springs gym as it reopened on April 24, 2020 in Powder Springs, Georgia. A gym owner in California who planned to reopen his businesses after being forced to close amid the coronavirus outbreak has reversed his decision Kevin C. Cox/Getty

Chavez-Ochoa previously said he also believes the restrictions imposed amid the COVID-19 outbreak are a violation of the Constitution.

"This is government overreach, and under the First, the Fifth and the 14th amendments of the United States Constitution, we have a constitutional right to do exactly what we're doing," Chavez-Ochoa told Fox 11.

Covell has been contacted for further comment.

There are more than 48,700 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in California, which nearly 2000 deaths according to Johns Hopkins University. A total of 153,947 people have managed to recover from the virus across the U.S.

A graph, provided by Statista, showing the countries with the most known COVID-19 cases as of April 30.

covid19, coronavirus, statista

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC. (
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

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Medical advice

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Mask and glove usage

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  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.