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Arlington gym owner reopens, ‘trying to be as responsible as possible’

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Mike Jellison, owner of PA Fitness in Arlington, Wash., has decided to reopen his gym despite Washington’s ongoing stay-at-home order.

Initially, Jellison did close his business. He took time off, went to Arizona where his family has a home to think about the future, and told the Jason Rantz Show that he even considered retiring.

“I understand. I get it. Everybody’s got their own job, but now I’ve got my job and I’ve got to reassess, understand what I need to do,” Jellison said. “And then I started digging into a proper procedure, a proper way of actually running our situation.”

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Jellison said he listened to the federal briefings with President Trump and understood that health and fitness is essential for a person’s mental and physical well-being. Knowing that, it seemed reasonable to expect a gym or fitness center to be included in the early reopening phases.

“I mean, that’s what he had stated, and that’s what I thought the situation would end up … being,” Jellison said. “So coming back up here after that situation, with all my ducks in a row and all the plans and procedures and understandings to make us CDC qualified, and everything in order, come to find out it wasn’t to be.”

Then, Jellison said, he was infuriated.

“I started looking into our constitutional rights and checking out my Fourth Amendment, for business purposes, understanding that we have certain rights,” he said. “We’re all Americans. Everybody has a say in what’s going to happen, and what’s going to go on, and what we’re doing. It’s called the Constitution. It was put in place for us.”

The last straw for Jellison was that any county would have to go three weeks, at least during this phase, without a positive case or a death. Spokane County was denied the ability to move to Phase 2 because of this rule.

“I listened to that, and I was outraged,” he said. “I was totally outraged because of the idea that this can’t be true.”

So then he opened, with proper rules and restrictions in place.

“In my facility, what we did is we put everything at six feet apart,” he said. “We got rid of half of our stuff. We’re doing cleanings through a cleaning company, through us, bleaching. We’re doing everything we need to do once an hour. We’re taking temperatures at the front door to make sure that nobody is compromised.”

The person at the front door checking temperatures wears a mask and gloves. Once the temperature is approved, each person signs a waiver from the insurance company.

“We hand them a disinfectant bottle, which is a hospital disinfectant and a towel. They have the personal stuff, and then they go on about their business and do their workout constructively,” Jellison said. “We have a couple of rovers that are on the floor, and what they do is they make sure that the customers are doing their job.”

Jellison said his gym wants to set a good example for the community.

“We want to make sure that the community understands that we’re trying to be as responsible as possible,” he said. “But physical and mental health is important, and it’s been pushed to the side for a long time. It’s just not right.”

Jellison said PA Fitness was contacted yesterday by the state. They had received one complaint, Jellison said. While Jellison said he respects other’s opinions and right to complain, he also has heard from many more people who recognize that he is trying to do the right thing and being responsible.

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He said he’s not worried about his business license because he understands his rights as a business owner and has thought about the recourse to his action.

“I understand what, legally, what can and can’t happen to me. I get it,” he said. “Like I told my other partners, I’ll be the shield, you be the sword.”

His message to Gov. Inslee is to put the people as the first priority.

“Don’t use us as second, third, or fourth priority of what you have going on,” he said. “I mean, we can’t be a sub line, the people, to your agenda. Put the people first because we deserve it.”

PA Fitness in Arlington will remain open, Jellison said.

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