Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has issued an executive order allowing gyms and pools statewide to reopen on Sept. 9 while also greenlighting competitive sports with caution.
The announcement Thursday afternoon comes after months of sustained opposition from business groups and small-business owners who felt they could reopen safely as others such as restaurants, bars and casinos were allowed to do.
Gyms and fitness centers, which have been closed since March, must follow stringent safety protocols outlined in Whitmer’s order.
All patrons must wear masks while in the gym, even while exercising. Gyms must also thin down attendance for fitness classes to accommodate 6 feet of distance between each patron. Gyms must also make appropriate equipment-cleaning solutions widely available on the premises.
“Today we are announcing the reopening of gyms and pools with strict safety measures in place to protect patrons and their families,” Whitmer said in a statement. “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.”
Statewide gyms and fitness centers flirted with a potential reopening in mid-June when a federal district court sided with the industry in its lawsuit against Whitmer. That was around the same time restaurants and bars were beginning to reopen.
However, at the last minute, a federal appeals court sided with Whitmer and gyms were told to remain closed until further notice.
Thursday’s order specifies amusement parks, arcades, bingo halls, bowling alleys, indoor climbing facilities, indoor dance areas, roller rinks, ice rinks, trampoline parks, carnival or amusement rides, waterparks, and other similar recreational facilities must remain closed for entertainment purposes.
However, the order signified progress for bowling alleys and ice and roller rinks, which can open for the sole purpose of serving as a venue for organized sports.
The order offers competitive sports of all kinds with the option to resume practices and games. But, the order includes health guidance from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) indicating contact sports put participants at high risk of transmitting COVID-19.
“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 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.”
The impact of the announcement on high school sports remains to be seen. The Michigan High School Sports Association has held back football, boys soccer, volleyball and girls swimming from commencing this fall season. The recent order could see those sports kick off yet this fall.