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Politics
See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

Fact Check: NC Among Few States With Gyms Still Closed Because Of COVID-19

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Gyms are among the businesses that remain closed under North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper's order. He said he's concerned heavy breathing associated with exercise accelerates the spread of the coronavirus. His opponent, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, says Cooper is, "picking winners and losers." He tweeted last week, "Forty-six states have gyms/fitness centers open. North Carolina is one of four states that does not." WRAL's Paul Specht joins us to assess that last statement.

Lisa Worf: Good morning, Paul.

Paul Specht: Good morning.

Worf: So are we just one of four states that won't allow gyms to open?

Specht: At the time Dan Forest made this claim, we were. He was right. We were just one of four states -- the others being Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey -- to close gyms. But now Arizona has reversed its decision to open gyms and is closing them. As of Monday is when that announcement was made.

Worf: Now, just because gyms may be open in part of a state, that doesn't mean all of them are open, right? Or allowed to be open?

Specht: That's right. Just because we were one of four that has not opened gyms does not mean that they are open everywhere in every state. And what I mean by that is some states like Washington and Pennsylvania and California are opening businesses on a regional basis. So in those states, you will see some counties have gyms that are open and others don't. And in those states, the governor has set up plans and benchmarks that each county needs to meet in terms of clearing the coronavirus in order to open gyms and other businesses.

Worf: And just because gyms may be allowed to open in an area or in a state doesn't mean that it's just business as usual.

Specht: That's right. The National Governors Association tracks state laws and how each state is responding to the coronavirus. They track what each state is doing with gyms, and most states are reopening some gyms, but with restrictions, meaning they have new sanitary guidelines. You know, you have to wipe things down more often. You have to reduce capacity. So it's not business as usual. No.

Worf: And what's your rating on this?

Specht: Dan Forest gets a "true." Obviously, there was a little bit more context to add. And I would say there's one more thing to add to this: Some people may read Forest's claim and think, "Oh, well, the other 46 governors have opened gyms." That would not be true. That's not what Forest said. But people might get that impression. There are states like Wisconsin and Michigan that had also closed gyms, but court rulings in those states overturned the governor's decision. So gyms opened without the governor's approval.

Worf: North Carolina now requires masks in public when you're in situations where you can't socially distance. And there's been some confusion over this. Now, you looked at a Facebook post that got hundreds of views saying the mandate infringes on Second Amendment rights. How exactly did it say it was doing that?

Specht: It said that you cannot wear a mask and also carry a concealed weapon. And it pointed to a general statute, 14-12. And so that's what we've looked at for this fact check, is can you wear a mask and carry a concealed weapon -- of course, if you have a permit. And we went to that general statute to see what was there.

And what we found was, yes, there is an old law on the books that says you cannot wear a mask in public. And it was meant to target the KKK back in the 1950s. That law -- stay with me -- is now on hold during the pandemic so that people can, of course, protect their health.

So then we scan that part of the law for any mention of guns or concealed carry. And we did not find anything. We didn't find anything about that. So, of course, next we turn to experts.

Worf: And what do the experts have to say?

Specht: We got a rare bipartisan agreement on this. Roy Cooper's staff, obviously, he's a Democrat, the Senate leader, Phil Berger, he's a Republican, and Grassroots North Carolina, which is the top gun advocacy group in the state, all agree that there is no law that prohibits people from wearing a mask in public and carrying a concealed weapon. And that's why we rated this "false."

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