Gov. Whitmer says gyms can reopen downstate, organized sports can resume but recommends against contact sports

TV6 has learned the high school football teams can resume practices on Tuesday, September 8.
A man running on a treadmill in a gym.
A man running on a treadmill in a gym.(WLUC)
Published: Sep. 3, 2020 at 3:10 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 3, 2020 at 3:41 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (AP/WLUC) - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Thursday that gyms can reopen after 5 1/2 months of closure and organized sports can resume, lifting some coronavirus restrictions that lasted longer in Michigan than in many other states.

The order, which is effective next Wednesday, allows for reopening fitness centers and indoor pools in remaining regions that hold 93 percent of the state’s population, subject to safety rules. Masks will be required at all times inside gyms, including during exercise. They opened in less populated northern counties in June, subject to smaller class sizes.

“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 Governor 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.”

The governor, a Democrat, also allowed athletic competitions to resume in regions where they are restricted. Her administration released separate guidance, however, recommending against — but not prohibiting — sports involving more than occasional and fleeting contact: football, basketball, soccer, lacrosse, hockey, wrestling, field hockey, boxing and martial arts with opponents.

TV6 has learned the high school football teams can resume practices on Tuesday, September 8. The first games at the moment are set for the weekend of September 17. It appears it will be just an Upper Peninsula related schedule. There may be some playoffs, that is to be determined.

“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.”

“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 Governor 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.”

Whitmer did not reopen movie theaters despite some media reports that she would. Bowling alleys, roller rinks and ice rinks can open but only for the sole purpose of serving as a venue for organized sports.

The governor urged the schools districts and athletic associations to follow the guidelines issued by the state health department, which reported 36 outbreaks involving sports teams and facilities in August.

To view the governor’s executive orders and the MDHHS memo on mitigation strategies, click the links below:

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. Copyright 2020 WLUC. All rights reserved.

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