Washington yoga studio uses religious exemption to avoid coronavirus orders

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A Washington state yoga studio is declining to comply with state and local coronavirus pandemic rules, claiming it has a religious exemption.

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Seattle's HauteYoga — one of the city's highest-rated studios — is holding in-person classes, despite Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee's recent extension of statewide restrictions.


According to Newsweek, the studio is holding in-person sessions for six people, with social distancing, mask-wearing, temperature checks, and the use of air purifiers with HEPA filters.

The doors are reportedly also open for increased airflow.

HauteYoga's founder Leah Zaccaria told Newsweek she was not asserting sessions were religious gatherings, but said that she believes her work is essential and is "saving people's lives."

A request for comment was not immediately returned by HauteYoga.

Democratic presidential candidate Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks during a Democratic primary debate hosted by NBC News in June 2019. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Gyms and fitness centers are not allowed to open until 11:59 p.m. PT on Jan. 11 under Inslee's order.

However, religious centers may continue to function at 25% indoor capacity – or 200 people in King County — with the implementation of proper social distancing and face coverings.

Announcing the extension of the state's "Stay Safe–Stay Healthy" proclamation, Inslee said that the goal is to keep residents safe and ensure hospital capacity.

"We understand the profound impact COVID is having on our healthcare system, families, and businesses, but I am heartened by the number of Washingtonians who continue to do the right thing," he said.

"If we continue distancing from others, wearing facial coverings and avoiding social gatherings, we will make it to the other side of this pandemic together," Inslee added.

Seattle's King County was one of the hardest-hit regions when the virus reached the United States in March.

Now, county data shows just over 1,900 positive cases recorded since Thursday with nine deaths and a positive testing rate of 4.6%.

Those numbers bring total positives to more than 63,299 with over 1,091 deaths.

In Washington, the Department of Health reported more than 230,165 coronavirus cases and more than 3,461 deaths.


A department spokeswoman contacted by FOX Business couldn't immediately comment on the matter.

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