State Rep. Ben Frederick on Wednesday invited a local small business owner to testify before the Joint Select Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic related to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders which continue to restrict or prohibit job providers and employees from making a living.
Brianna Carroll, owner of Fitness Coliseum in Owosso, told the committee about her confusion over why her gym remains closed while many other sectors have been opened. While she has been able to hold outdoor and virtual classes successfully, the weather will soon make the outdoor option impractical and she remains down overall in both membership totals and revenue.
“It’s working, but it’s just barely working,” Carroll said to the committee. “A lot of our frustration comes from the essential business debate versus safety. Why can you go to a bar and get a drink six feet from someone, but you can’t come to my gym where we can use the same precautions? We can sanitize. We can keep people distanced. We can cap class sizes when we run classes. We have the ability to do those same things as other places to keep people safe and the fact that we haven’t been given the opportunity to do that is hard.”
Frederick noted a common theme from committee testimony was a lack of communication and clarity from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office on what small businesses that remain closed need to do to reopen. Many, including Carroll, have formulated and submitted safe and responsible reopening plans to the administration – at the governor’s own direction – but have not heard back on the status of those submissions.
Whitmer did not indicate on Tuesday when gyms, theaters, bowling alleys and other small businesses in Michigan would be allowed to reopen – simply saying it isn’t safe to do so. Other states have allowed many of these sectors to reopen.
“Local businesses make up the bedrock of our communities. They stimulate our local economies and provide people with jobs,” Frederick said. “People have poured their lives into these operations. It’s very demoralizing to make them wait months – five or six months and counting in some cases – with uncertainty as to when or if they’ll be able to safely open their doors again or what they need to do to see that process through.”
Carroll further noted that gyms and theaters in the northern portions of Michigan have been open for months without any major outbreaks recorded and are also open in most states across the country.
“I am ready to able to serve my members safely and completely,” she said. “Certainly not in ignoring our new situation, but learning to work safely and efficiently within it.”
PHOTO INFORMATION: Brianna Carroll, owner of Fitness Coliseum in Owosso, offers virtual testimony before the Joint Select Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic held at the Capitol in Lansing on Wednesday, Aug. 26. Carroll explained to the committee that ongoing executive orders have severely impacted her ability to generate income, before laying out the ways in which her business can keep both customers and staff safe indoors during operating hours.
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