Business · Fresno

Karbassi puts public health officials on hot seat over lack of data in shutdown spat

California’s coronavirus restrictions have pitted two of Fresno’s City Council members against each other over how local municipalities should handle Sacramento edicts.

Since Fresno County is in the purple tier of the state’s coronavirus reopening blueprint, many businesses – such as restaurants and gyms – are not allowed to operate indoors. 

These businesses had been operating indoors as late as the first half of November when Fresno County was in the red tier. Restaurants were allowed to operate at 25 percent capacity while gyms were limited to 10 percent.

Both have since been shuttered, but the state will allow restaurants and gyms to reopen once Fresno County returns to the red tier. 

Fresno’s Fit Republic Health Clubs has remained open in spite of the state’s directive. 

That decision led the city to warn the gym four times to close or face punishment. 

City Council President Miguel Arias told KFSN that Fit Republic Health Clubs was fined $250 on Monday for staying open, and the gym is looking at a $500 fine next if it does not shut down. 

Fines for businesses defying the order can reportedly increase all the way up to $10,000. 

Council member Mike Karbassi took to Twitter on Wednesday to challenge the decision by city code enforcement to fine the gym.

“In my opinion, this is not a situation that I consider a flagrant violation of the guidelines we have set forth,” Karbassi wrote. “By all accounts this business is following masking and distancing guidelines, and should be allowed to operate. There is no data to back up the notion that gyms following these protocols are a spreader of COVID-19.” 

Karbassi also turned his attention to the lack of transparency at the local level over coronavirus statistics driving the decision-making to shutdown businesses.

“At this point, I am struggling to understand any full shut down and the 25% cap on restaurants as the County’s Department of Public Health has refused to release any data to the City Council or the public to support these measures as actually helping slow the spread of this disease. 

“Until I see real numbers from our county that back up any decision that harms any business, I will not be in favor of any stricter guidelines for any business within the City of Fresno.” 

At the state level, State Sen. Andreas Borgeas (R–Fresno) launched a rallying cry over the need for the Newsom administration and California’s Department of Public Health to produce data backing up the moves between coronavirus reopening tiers.

That call-to-action has been fruitless thus far.

Daniel Gligich
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.