Michigan gyms can reopen at limited capacity, organized sports can resume 

DHHS recommends against resuming contact-heavy sports

Susan J. Demas

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Thursday that gymnasiums and pools in Michigan — closed by her earlier this year to reduce the spread of COVID-19 — can reopen at reduced capacity. Organized sports can also resume, but only with strict safety measures in place.

Whitmer on Thursday signed two executive orders. EO 2020-176 rescinds previous orders closing fitness and recreation facilities. EO 2020-175 outlines rules facilities are required to follow to reduce potential COVID-19 transmission.

Gyms, fitness centers and similar recreation venues can reopen at 25% capacity on Sept. 9. Pools can also reopen at 25% capacity if they’re indoors and at 50% if they’re outdoors in regions where they’re still closed. 

“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,” Whitmer said in a news release. “Be smart, and stay safe.” 

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) also issued guidance on how owners of gyms and pools, plus organized sports participants, should follow safety measures to reduce COVID-19 transmission.

Michigan reports 685 new COVID-19 cases Thursday

“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 Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive. 

There were 30 reported outbreaks involving athletic teams and facilities in August, Khaldun said.

The DHHS recommends against participation in high-contact sports, i.e., those that require more than just brief physical contact. The department released public guidance for sports organizations and athletes to follow: frequently wash hands, don’t let players share “towels, clothing, or other items they use to wipe their faces or hands,” disinfect equipment and prioritize outdoor practice.

Gyms must require “wearing of masks at all times, including times of exercise,” implement protocols to put six feet of distance between gym members, cut class sizes to accommodate social distancing and provide sanitary supplies to clean workout stations and equipment, according to EO 2020-175.

Spectators for indoor sports are reduced to include just athletes’ guests. Each athlete can have two guests, according to the order. Spectators for outdoor sports must be limited to 100 people or fewer or a competition organizer has to limit the number of guests per athlete to two. 

“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,” Whitmer said. “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.”  

C.J. Moore
C.J. Moore covers the environment and the Capitol. She previously worked at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland as a public affairs staff science writer. She also previously covered crop sustainability and coal pollution issues for Great Lakes Echo. In addition, she served as editor in chief at The State News and covered its academics and research beat. She is a journalism graduate student at Michigan State University.