MIDDLETON, IDAHO — In defiance of Governor Brad Little's stay-at-home order the owner of Middleton Fitness re-opened their gym to the community on Monday.
The Governor extended the order on Wednesday, April 15 for two more weeks and part of that order included that bars, hair salons and gyms were to remain closed after being deemed non-essential during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I have no desire to be arrested, to be fined and have mine and my family’s name drug through the mud, but it is something I personally think I have to stand for," said Jonathan Eldridge the owner of the Middleton Fitness Center. “It’s something I personally and morally think is important.”
But concerned citizens in Middleton are starting to file complaints as they worry that opening the gym will spread the coronavirus and set the community back after weeks of isolation and social distancing.
“Whatever they exchange in the gym will propagate out into the community," said Middleton resident Doug Kirk. "It’s two fold, it’s not right what he’s doing sending a message to other businesses but people in the gym could spread this virus through Middleton."
The possible fine for violating the Governor's stay-at-home order is six months in prison and/or a $1,000 fine.
Middleton Mayor Steve Rule told us he contacted Governor Little who told him it was up to local jurisdictions to enforce the stay-at-home order.
The Mayor then contacted the Canyon County Prosecutor's Office who told the Mayor that county judges weren't interested prosecuting misdemeanors for violating the stay-at-home order.
We reached out to the Canyon County Prosecutor's Office who released this statement: "The office would approach these matters - which the Idaho Legislature has determined are misdemeanors - as we would every other potential violation of the law which is on a case-by-case basis."
Middleton Mayor Steve Rule also reached out to Southwest District Help who provided guidelines for businesses that are open and the Mayor told us if businesses follow those guidelines the Middleton Police will not issue any citations.
Middleton Fitness isn't collecting any membership dues, they have scaled back their hours, the fitness center is providing hand sanitizer and masks to people and they have capped the amount of people in the gym at 40.
“I’m hoping what I do can help inspire other people," said Eldridge."Maybe we can set a precedent that our liberties are not to be taken lightly.”
A precedent has certainly been set in the Middleton community because there is no one to enforce the stay-at-home order, we will continue to monitor this developing story as it has the potential to also effect other communities in Idaho.