Florida Gym Owner Arrested For Not Enforcing Mask Mandate

Despite an emergency order in Broward County, Florida, stating gym patrons must wear masks at all times, including while exercising, Fitness 1440 Plantation was not enforcing the policy, leading to the arrest of its owner. (Photo by nito100/iStock/Getty Images Plus.)

Fitness 1440 Plantation owner Michael Carnevale was arrested on July 27 and his gym was closed because at least one member of the gym was not wearing a mask while working out, according to a media release from Carnevale.

Although Florida Gov. Ron De Santis has not issued a statewide mask mandate, some counties in the state have, including Broward County, the county in which the Plantation, Florida, club is located.

On July 17, Broward County officials announced that In the past week, the county had experienced more than 1,300 new cases each day and positivity rates as high as 16.58 percent. The county's hospitals were either at or are exceeding their bed capacity. For that reason, the county issued Emergency Order 20-22, which states that “No establishment shall serve or transact business with any person or patron who is not complying with the facial covering requirements of Broward County emergency Order 20-21 and the applicable attachments thereto, as amended.”

Attachment 14 of the order states that health club patrons must wear facial coverings at all times, including while exercising, except while in a pre-swim, shower or swimming pool.

In the media release, Carnevale called forcing patrons to wear masks while exercising “dangerous and disturbing.” He also said that HIPAA laws don't allow him to ask his members about medical conditions that might prevent them from wearing masks.

Carnevale was released on bail 12 hours after his arrest. His club also reopened later in the week. In the media release, he contended that his arrest was in retaliation for a lawsuit he had filed the day before against Broward County over its mask mandate.

Club Industry reached out to Broward County for reaction to this accusation but has not heard back yet.

Large club companies such as Life Time and Planet Fitness have implemented mask requirements at all their facilities, even in locations where local or state officials have not yet mandated masks. Life Time does not require members to wear masks while exercising, just when they are in the clubs and not actively exercising. Planet Fitness, however, will require, starting Aug. 1, that masks be worn at all times inside clubs.

The World Health Organization (WHO) stated on its website that people should not wear masks when exercising as doing so could reduce their ability to breathe comfortably. The organization also noted that sweat could cause the mask to become wet, which could increase breathing difficulties and cause growth of microorganisms. Instead, WHO recommends maintaining physical distancing of at least one meter (3.2 feet) from other people.

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