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South Jersey gym that defied shutdown orders closed by state

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The New Jersey Health Department has shut down the South Jersey gym that opened earlier this week in defiance of Gov. Phil Murphy’s coronavirus orders.

Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, Camden County, was “posing a threat to the public health,” Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said in a closure notice, which also cited a CDC study that found “vigorous exercise in closely confined spaces should be avoided during the current outbreak.”

Ian Smith, co-owner of the gym, called the closure a “dirty tactic” by the governor and said it was part of a “coordinated attack” on his establishment, according to reporting by NBC10.

“It’s a gross abuse of power,” Smith told the outlet, adding that although the gym would not open Thursday, he did plan to open it Friday.

Smith also told NBC10 that health department officials had not been inside the gym to take a look at the safety measures put in place to protect patrons, and he vowed to file a lawsuit.

The gym had been operating at 20% capacity. Members were required to undergo a temperature check before entering and wear a mask unless in the middle of a set.

But the health department notice said nonessential businesses could not simply set their own “divergent health measures.”

It also said the number of coronavirus cases is still too high to lift Murphy’s business restrictions, which shuttered gyms on March 16, and currently restrict nonessential retail establishments to curbside pickup only.

To date, New Jersey has reported 150,399 cases of COVID-19 and 10,747 related deaths.

Murphy, a Democrat, has enjoyed widespread support in polls for his handling of the pandemic so far.

But the owners of the Bellmawr gym have emerged as some of his top antagonists in the press. Their reopening on Monday attracted about 200 supporters and was broadcast live on Fox News.

Asked if he regretted reopening the gym in the first place, Smith told NBC10, “Absolutely not. We’re gonna defend our rights.”

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