Some businesses not waiting for Tulare County to advance through reopening stages

VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- Gyms up and down the state closed their doors when the stay at home order went into effect in March.

But Valley's Gym in Visalia let their members lift until April 13th, when Visalia code enforcement officers gave them a 'Notice of Violation Warning.'

Owner David Robles closed the gym at that time, but reopened it last Friday, days after some Visalia city councilmembers told city staff they do not expect them to intervene or enforce the state order.

"I have gym equipment, I have rent, I have all our insurance and bills, those guys don't stop," Robles said. "So all we want to do is to be able to do our job constructively, safely, and to have our city trust us that we're going to honor that."

Visalia is Tulare County's largest city, and the county is following the state's resilience roadmap.

While more than 20 California counties have been cleared to move faster through stage two of that plan, which includes retail and dine-in restaurants, Tulare County is not one of them.

"We don't want to see anything holding our businesses back here, but we do have some difficulty meeting some of the metrics that are required to be met," Tulare County Supervisor Pete Vander Poel said.

Tulare County has more than 1,300 cases of COVID-19, and 64 deaths.

Many are connected to nursing homes, so Vander Poel says county officials are asking the state to consider removing those numbers in order to meet some parts of the state's criteria for moving further along in stage two.

But some businesses, like gyms, aren't included in any part of stage two.

So it made some sense when on Friday, Visalia code enforcement officers gave Valley's Gym another warning.

"Some people dig their heels in (and) say, 'No, I'm going to go ahead even though it's violating'," Visalia City Councilmember Greg Collins said. "Well, ok, but then we have an obligation to bring that to your attention."

David Robles says his gym has a number of safety precautions in place, and he expects his members to follow the rules.

He knows he's being watched, but he's not backing down.

"There's no power behind the (warning) letter," Robles said. "I want to do what I said from the beginning."

Tulare County Health & Human Services released the following information on Friday.

Today the Tulare County Public Health Department conducted a technical assistance call with the California Department of Public Health which is a critical first step in the process moving towards a local attestation variance. Tulare County continues to be engaged in discussions with neighboring counties and our State legislative representatives discussing strategies to move forward as a region. Recognizing Tulare County does not meet all of the metric requirements at this time, the Public Health Branch will be presenting a local variance attestation plan to the Board of Supervisors next week seeking approval for the next steps towards a local variance. Although the County does not meet the epidemiological metrics, Tulare County Public Health Branch will present a plan that includes a continuing mitigation strategy and prospective on factors that have caused Tulare County numbers to be so high, such as the outbreaks in nursing homes and food processing facilities.

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