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Michigan gyms, indoor pools can reopen Sept. 9, Gov. Whitmer orders

Gyms and indoor pools can reopen Sept. 9 and organized sports can resume Friday under an executive order signed by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

Under the order, gyms and pools must follow enhanced safety precautions to protect against the spread of coronavirus, and organized sports played indoors must have limited audiences. 

“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,” Whitmer said in a statement Thursday.

“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.” 

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While the order clears the way for the resumption of high school sports, Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun recommended against playing contact sports. 

“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,” Khaldun said in a statement. “We are not out of the woods yet.”

Under the order: 

  • Gym-goers will be required to wear masks indoors at all times except while swimming. 
  • Gyms will be limited to 25 percent capacity. 
  • Equipment and attendees to group exercise classes must be spaced at least six feet apart. 
  • Equipment must be regularly sanitized and sanitizing equipment must be available for customers. 
  • Indoor pools will be limited to 25 percent capacity and outdoor pools will be limited to 50 percent capacity. 
  • Bowling alleys, roller rinks and ice skating rinks can be open only to serve as a venue for organized sports.
  • Athletes who are playing sports won’t be required to social distance, but must do so and wear masks when they’re not playing. 
  • Audiences for organized sports indoors must be limited to the guests of athletes. Each athlete can designate up to two guests. Outdoor sports must have less than 100 people in the audience or two guests per athlete. 
  • No live audiences will be allowed for professional sports.

On Wednesday, Whitmer said she was not yet ready to announce the opening of fitness centers, saying she “wanted to make sure that we get the protocols correct.” 

Gyms and indoor pools have been closed since March 17 in most of the Lower Peninsula. Industry leaders have argued that Whitmer’s staff has shown little evidence to support their continued closure while other businesses such as casinos have been allowed to reopen with safety requirements.

The Michigan Fitness Club Association released a statement Thursday saying it appreciates Whitmer’s decision to allow them to reopen. 

“The health and safety of our members, staff, and the public is our top priority. We are well-prepared to provide a clean environment and we are excited to offer Michiganders the opportunity to resume their exercise routines,” the statement read.

Advocates for fitness centers and other businesses have pleaded with Whitmer to allow them to reopen, saying that they will soon be forced to close permanently.

Gyms and movie theaters in northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, where coronavirus case counts have been lower in the more densely-populated lower peninsula, were allowed to reopen on June 10. Some gym owners in still-closed regions defied the governor’s orders and reopened anyway, facing potential misdemeanor citations from police. 

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