Gym owners provided loophole in fight to reopen – News – The Daily News

Though they have not heard a final verdict regarding their temporary restraining order case against Governor Roy Cooper’s executive orders, gym owners have received a loophole.

Raleigh attorney Chuck Kitchen received clarification from Special Deputy Attorney General Phillip Rubin that gym owners are allowed to reopen their doors to meet the needs of clients who have been prescribed or directed by a medical professional to be able to use the gym’s services.

Robin Smith, one of Fit4life’s partners in Jacksonville, said due to HIPAA regulations not allowing gym owners to ask for a doctor’s note for clients to use their services, they are able to use this loophole as justification to reopen without interference.

“We could have been open this entire time in order to help service our clients with medical conditions,” said Smith. “We are considering this a partial win but are still waiting to hear word about the temporary restraining order.”

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, The Privacy Rule, established in December 2000, applies to health plans, health care clearinghouses, and to any health care provider who transmits health information in electronic form.

While some health care providers, such as physical therapists, can prescribe exercise as a way of healing certain ailments, gyms are not required to confirm that information with a patient, according to Smith.

“This allows us to open, unobstructed because we are servicing all our clients and members who have medical (including emotional) problems. Where physical activity can be prescribed or recommended,” added Smith.

During a COVID-19 briefing Thursday afternoon, Governor Roy Cooper discussed the possibility of a Phase 2.5 plan that would allow gyms to open before his original plan during Phase Three.

On Thursday morning, a senate committee unanimously passed House Bill 594 calling for gyms and fitness facilities to reopen before Phase Three, while a temporary restraining order allowing gyms to reopen immediately without law enforcement intrusion was heard in Wake County district court.

The bill has several more steps for approval before hitting Cooper’s desk for his decision on whether to veto the bill or allow it into law. Through The Emergency Powers Act, Cooper is given a broad amount of power during state of emergencies, as he explained in the briefing this legislation would hamper his and local government’s ability to make decisions.

“The real problem with legislation is that if, for example, we have a surge of deaths, the authority of the executive branch is taken away to be able to close those again in order to protect the health and safety of the public,” said Cooper.

During the briefing, Cooper did not go into further detail about the possibility of Phase 2.5 but added he is analyzing whether gyms and other businesses such as bars, should be included in the modified plan.

Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen has defended the state’s decision to keep gyms closed during Phase Two of the state’s reopening plan, which runs until at least late June. She said it’s hard to keep gym users socially distanced and the heavy breathing of exercise could spread coronavirus.

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