(CBS Philly) – A New Jersey gym that has received a backlash throughout the coronavirus pandemic is offering a giveaway to anyone not receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. The Atilis Gym in Bellmawr first made headlines last year when they repeatedly opposed Governor Phil Murphy’s order to shut down the coronavirus.
Gym owner Ian Smith posted on Twitter that Atilis Gym would offer free memberships to anyone not receiving the coronavirus vaccine after learning of Krispy Kreme’s decision to give free donuts to anyone who received the shots.
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“Given that Krispy Kreme gives free donuts for getting CVD [sic] Shot, here at Atilis Gym we’re giving away free memberships to anyone who isn’t vaccinated, ”Smith tweeted. “We believe in health – the real way – exercise, good nutrition, lots of vitamin D, zinc and an environment for undressing.”
Given that @krispykreme are giving free donuts for getting the CVD shot, here at @TheAtilisGym we’re giving away free memberships to anyone who doesn’t get vaccinated. We believe in health – the real way – exercise, good nutrition, lots of vitamin D, zinc and an environment for undressing.
– Ian Smith (@iansmithfitness) March 23, 2021
The gym opened its doors in May 2020 and started a legal battle over whether Murphy’s order to keep non-essential businesses closed was constitutional. Atilis Gym was fined more than $ 130,000 last year for repeatedly violating Governor Murphy’s COVID-19 shutdown orders.
CBSPhilly.com has requested a comment from Ian Smith but has not yet received a response.
More than half a million Americans have died from the COVID-19 virus since the pandemic began.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week that approximately 85 million people in the United States have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and more than 46 million are fully vaccinated. The medical community and government officials urge the public to get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.
However, despite progress in vaccination, COVID-19 infections are re-emerging in the three-state area, with cases rising in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
New Jersey now has the third highest positivity rate in the country, and hospital admissions topped 2,000 for the first time in a month.
Officials blame variants and virus fatigue. People are not as careful with masks and distancing, and while vaccinations are increasing, they have not been given to enough people to stop the surge in COVID cases.
New Jersey governor Phil Murphy said he would hold back on lifting further restrictions until it is clear the number of cases is moving in the right direction.
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Three emergency vaccines are approved in the US: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.
The FDA has not found any serious safety issues with any of the approved COVID-19 vaccines, but they can cause side effects similar to arm pain, headache, and fatigue, similar to other vaccines.
“My message is: get everything you can get,” said Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease expert at Emory University.
del Rio, who led the early COVID vaccine studies in the US, says all three options help reduce the chance of severe symptoms, hospitalizations, and death.
Pfizer and Modern vaccines are 95% effective, and J&J reports 85% effectiveness against major diseases. However, unlike Moderna and Pfizer, the J&J vaccine has also been studied against newer strains and only requires one dose.
“It looks pretty good against the British line,” said del Rio.
In addition to vaccinating adults, CBS News medical officer Dr. David Agus that vaccinating children is critical to ending the pandemic.
“We must do everything we can to achieve herd immunity. Given that 25 percent of the United States is under the age of 21, children must be included,” he said.
Moderna’s adult vaccine trial had 30,000 people. Agus said Moderna’s smaller experiment for children only needs to answer two questions.
“Is it safe? Period. And do they employ effective immune responses? Period. And that is very easy to do with fewer children,” he said.
Cases and hospital stays have declined dramatically since their January peak after the winter break. However, public health officials warned these gains could stall as more variants gain a foothold in the US
“We may be through with the virus, but the virus clearly isn’t through with us,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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“I’m starting to see a sense of complacency,” said del Rio. “I worry about that, so I tell people that we are in a race between variants and vaccines and we have to hold on a little longer because if not, the variants will take control.”