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‘It just needs to be implemented fairly’: Fitchburg gymnastics academy joins suit over mass gatherings order

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FITCHBURG (WKOW) -- On a large floor with several stations Monday night, only two one-on-one lessons were happening at Gymfinity. Personal instruction is still allowed under Dane County's order that bans all indoor mass gatherings but classes with multiple people are not.

Gymfinity owner J. Orkowski said Monday it was an example of inconsistencies that prompted him to join a lawsuit seeking to strike down the order from Public Health Madison & Dane County.

"I'm actually all for masking. I'm all for closures if we need to do closures," Orskowski said. "It just needs to be implemented fairly."

The lawsuit was filed Monday by the conservative legal firm, Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL). Orkowski said the firm contacted him before filing the suit.

"When they first contacted me about being part of a lawsuit, one of the things I said is I am not on that far right-wing side," Orkowski said. "I am not for anti-masking."

Orkowski said he joined the suit because he believed it was unfair to force businesses like his to close while allowing restaurants and taverns to remain open at up to 50 percent of their normal indoor capacity. He defending his business's policies of temperature checks at the door and strict enforcement of the mask requirement.

"It doesn't make sense that we can leave here, go down the street to the bar, sit next to each other and have a cocktail without masks on at all," Orkowski said.

WILL filed an emergency motion with the Wisconsin Supreme Court Monday seeking a pause on the order until the case can be heard in court. County Executive Joe Parisi said it was a dangerous decision at a time when public health experts are asking people to avoid gatherings for Thanksgiving.

"I'm very concerned about what happens if this is struck down because it will have an impact and it's not gonna go well," Parisi said.

The lawsuit argued the health department does not have standing to issue such an order; it claimed elected bodies like the Dane County Board and Madison Common Council only had that authority.

Dane County Board Chair Analiese Eicher said she could not comment on the lawsuit Monday; she added the county's lawyers were reviewing the lawsuit. Madison Common Council President Sheri Carter did not respond to messages Monday.

Parisi said elected officials in the county were already following the guidance of local health officials.

"I'm going to turn to the healthcare community, I'm going to turn to our doctors, and our hospitals, and the CDC -- as does Public Health Madison & Dane County for advice and input on how we should move forward," he said.

Orkowski said if the county wanted to move forward with any type of closure, the order should have been broader to include more indoor businesses. Instead, he believed the order unfairly targeted businesses like his.

"Come out with a public order that's written by the right people, that's carried out the right way," he said. "Because if we are all in this together, then we should all shoulder it together."

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A. J. Bayatpour

Reporter, WKOW 27

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