(WWJ) Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will allow gyms in metro Detroit and statewide to reopen at 25% capacity.
She's also giving youth sports the go-ahead, although she is recommending no soccer or football.
Whitmer on Thursday signed Executive Order 2020-176, reopening gyms, finesses centers and indoor pools statewide, and allowing for high school and other organized sports practices and competitions to resume in those regions where they remain restricted, provided that strict protections are in place to limit spread of the coronavirus.
Gyms and pools may begin to reopen on Wednesday, Sept. 9, she said, while there was no mention of reopening movie theaters.
The governor also signed Executive Order 2020-175 outlining strict workplace safety measures gyms and pools must follow to protect people from the spread of COVID-19.
“Throughout this pandemic, we have followed the best science and data available to make decisions that will keep Michiganders safe, and our hard work is paying off. Today we are announcing the reopening of gyms and pools with strict safety measures in place to protect patrons and their families,” said Whitmer. “I urge everyone who plans to hit the gym after these orders go into effect to take these precautions seriously and do everything in their power to protect themselves and their families. Be smart, and stay safe.”
Gyms, movie theaters, bowling alleys and skating rinks are all among the handful of type of businesses closed for over six months now under Whitmer's COVID-19 executive orders. That's with the exception of in Northern Michigan, including the U.P. and the Traverse City area, which have already moved on to Phase 5 of the governor's economic recovery plan.
Under Executive Order 2020-175, all gyms and pools that reopen must enforce strict safety measures, the state said. Gyms must require wearing of masks at all times, including times of exercise, configure workout stations or implement protocols to enable six feet of distance between individuals during exercise sessions, reduce class sizes to enable at least six feet of separation between individuals, provide equipment-cleaning products throughout the gym, and more.
“Individuals can now choose whether or not to play organized sports, and if they do choose to play, this order requires strict safety measures to reduce risk,” said Chief Medical Executive and MDHHS Chief Deputy for Health Dr. Joneigh Khaldun. “However, we know of 30 reported outbreaks involving athletic teams and facilities in August. Based on current data, contact sports create a high risk of COVID-19 transmission and MDHHS strongly recommends against participating in them at this time. We are not out of the woods yet. COVID-19 is still a very real threat to our families.”
Needless to say, gyms owners and managers have long been awaiting this news.
“On behalf of the Michigan Fitness Club Association, we appreciate Governor Whitmer’s announcement regarding the re-opening of gyms and fitness centers,” said Alyssa Tushman, Vice Chair of the Michigan Fitness Club Association. “The health and safety of our members, staff, and the public in general is our top priority. We are well-prepared to ensure a safe, clean environment and we are excited to offer Michiganders the opportunity to resume their exercise routines. We look forward to working with Governor Whitmer and her administration to help build a healthy Michigan.”
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) also released guidance today on organized sports. DETAILS HERE.
“We are pleased with the opportunity to move forward. Our Association continues to work with a team from the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health to ensure the safety of approximately 90,000 players and 11,000 team officials,” said Thomas Faro, Executive Director of the Michigan State Youth Soccer Association. “We will continue these efforts through our return to play guidelines and in strict accordance with Governor Whitmer’s Executive Orders.”
The document recommends against contact sports at this time, defined to mean those sports involving more than occasional and fleeting contact, including football, basketball, and soccer. It also cites the elevated risk associated with activities that involve “shouting, singing, or breathing forcefully,” and notes there have been 30 reported outbreaks associated with athletic clubs, teams, or athletic facilities. MDHHS’ guidance recommends mitigation measures organized sports teams may take to reduce the spread of COVID-19 during training, practices, and competitions. These recommendations include frequent hand washing, not letting players share towels, clothing, or other items they use to wipe their faces or hands, ensuring proper cleaning and disinfection of objects and equipment, prioritizing outdoor practice, and more.
Spectators for indoor organized sports are limited to the guests of the athletes with each athlete designating up to two guests. For outdoor sports competitions, the organizer of the competitions must either limit the audience to the guests of the participants with each athlete designating up to two guests, or limit total attendance to 100 people or fewer, including all participants like athletes, coaches, and staff.
“As we begin to start organized sports back up again, I urge school districts and athletic associations to do everything in their power to protect players, coaches, and staff. That means carefully following the guidelines released today by DHHS,” said Whitmer. “Going forward, we will continue to work with health experts to assess the risk associated with business sectors that remain closed. For the health and safety of our families and frontline workers, it is crucial that we proceed thoughtfully and incrementally so we can measure the effects of today's actions before we take additional steps towards re-engagement."
This updates comes after the governor failed to make an expected announcement on gyms on Wednesday.
"People already in our town are saying: 'Why didn't she say this yesterday?' Good question, that we don't have an answer for," Skubick said.
Whitmer has said she is following the science and the advice of health experts, and would not be "bullied" into making this move.