News Story

Locked-Down Gym Owner To Governor: ‘We Are Not Just Businesses, We Are People’

She doesn’t want to break the law but does want government transparency

The frustrated owner of a gym and fitness center in Owosso wrote a letter to her state representative, asking for help in the wake of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 related lockdown orders.

Fitness Coliseum owner Brianna Carroll said she was supportive when Whitmer ordered businesses to shut down to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“When the executive order closed our doors on March 16th 2020, I understood,” Carroll wrote in the letter to state Rep. Ben Frederick. “We needed to flatten the curve quickly to allow for healthcare to catch up and prepare to handle an influx in COVID-19 cases to save lives.”

Those efforts worked, Carroll wrote.

“Then we were told to stay closed longer, until cases began to increase at a lower rate and our test abilities were improved,” Carroll wrote, referring to the first lockdown extension. “I understood.”

Subsequent extensions will keep Carroll’s fitness center closed until May 28 at the earliest.

“I no longer understand," Carroll wrote. “We were told to stay closed longer, because.....well, we honestly haven’t been given a CLEAR reason.”

Owosso is in Shiawassee County. That county has had 219 people with COVID-19 and 19 deaths linked to the coronavirus. There are about 68,000 people in the county, according to the U.S. Census Bureau

Over the course of the past two months, Carroll has been delivering her fitness and exercise classes over the internet. Her message to customers had been, “We will get through this.”

She wrote that the governor’s message to business now is, “‘We’ll see,’ like we are small children whose questions parents just don’t have time to answer. We are not small children. We are business owners that have created, built and grown the businesses that are truly the backbone of our community.”

“We understood. We tried. So why is our government not doing the same for us?” she asked.

Carroll questioned why the state has not established a clear plan to help small businesses stay afloat financially and help them prepare for reopening.

“Why haven’t you tried to listen to us? We have been making plans to open safely, to prove that we can do so,” she implored. “Why haven’t you tried to see that we are all essential to SOMEONE? Just because you do not attend my gym, does not mean I am not an essential support environment to my over 200 members.”

Carroll admitted that she is “on the verge of breaking.” She wrote, “I do NOT want to go against government orders,” but does want government transparency.

“I want a reopen date and a plan that I can prepare for,” she wrote. “I want guidance on how I can operate my business in the new normal, within the law. I want my government to meet me in the middle.”

“The fact that someone like me is on the edge of breaking the executive order and opening my doors, is a problem of THE GOVERNMENT,” Carroll declared. “You have lost the trust and faith of someone who inherently WANTS to trust you.”

On Wednesday night, Fitness Coliseum published a reopening plan slated to go into effect on June 1.

Carroll plans to offer smaller in-house classes as well as continuing the online option, and has beefed up cleaning procedures, mask recommendations, and membership limits.

“I see that reopening too early and without precautions could be hugely detrimental,” Carroll told her customers on the Fitness Coliseum Facebook page. “I also see many small businesses unnecessarily going under due to lack of understanding from the government that we can find ways to open safely.”