Many southern California gyms remain open in defiance of state and county orders to close. And the NBC4 I-Team has found some of those gyms are incorrectly telling customers they are exempt from closure orders.
"That's not true. We don't have any exemptions like that as far as I know of, even in the state," said LA County Public Health Department's Chief Health Officer, Dr. Muntu Davis.
The I-Team found numerous gyms open and busy on Friday. At Crunch Fitness in Norwalk, they were giving tours and selling new memberships, telling people they're exempt from closure orders because "we're a franchise."
At Flex Gym in Woodland Hills on Friday, employees were telling people they're allowed to stay open because they're a private club.
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"I think it's truly appalling," Marilyn Howard told NBC4. Howard cancelled her membership at Flex on Wednesday because of the ongoing pandemic.
"Gyms are the one obvious place where it's going to spread," said Howard.
In fact, health inspectors this week closed down The Gym in Pacific Beach near San Diego--which had defied closure orders--after learning there was a COVID-19 outbreak at the gym.
Marilyn Howard says when she questioned an employee at Flex Gym as to why it was still open, she was told it was because they were "a private membership organization."
The health department reiterated to the I-Team that all indoor gyms must be closed.
But in it's ongoing investigation, the I-Team has found the county is slow to close gyms that it knows might be violating closure orders.
More than two weeks ago, the I-Team told the LA County Public Health department that Flex Gym was open. And members of Crunch Fitness in Norwalk showed the I-Team complaints they filed with the health department.
The department says it's overwhelmed with investigating up to 3,000 complaints a week about businesses during the pandemic.
"We have inspectors out at all hours of the day, seven days a week, but it's a big county and there are lots of businesses, so they're doing the best job they they can in terms of getting to these locations," Health Officer Dr. Davis told NBC4.
LA County's Public Health department says it will continue to do surprise inspections at gyms, and that it will "ramp up" enforcement if it finds them open, including turning off the power and locking the doors.