Whitmer: Decisions coming ‘very soon’ on gyms, organized sports

Lansing — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Wednesday she’ll announce decisions in the coming days on whether to reopen gyms and whether to allow some organized sports as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

During a press briefing, Whitmer said she understands that people are “anxious” about the looming decisions but the state will follow the “best science” in making them. She said the announcements would come “very soon.”

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, left, speaks as Chief Medical Executive and MDHHS Chief Deputy for Health Dr. Joneigh Khaldun listens during a press conference, Tuesday, August 25, 2020.

“There will be more to come in short order on this front,” Whitmer said.

“People’s lives are at stake,” she added. “COVID is still a very real threat all across the state.”

Her comments came as business owners and high school athletes face uncertainty about what will be allowed this fall. Some of them voiced frustration that Whitmer didn’t announce any specific decisions during the Wednesday press briefing.

“On the topic of fall sports, both @GovWhitmer and @MHSAA (the Michigan High School Athletic Association) have failed student-athletes and families. Neither have led on the topic and it’s embarrassing,” tweeted Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of Detroit Public Schools.

This week is the third in a row that Whitmer has been asked to help businesses that have been closed since March and the response has been “they’re thinking about it,” said Rich Studley, president of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

“All they want is the opportunity to reopen safely, and this will seem like callous indifference to their plight,” Studley said of Wednesday’s press briefing.

On Aug. 19, Whitmer said she was reviewing closed businesses, such as gyms and movie theaters, and she anticipated she would have more to share the next week.

On Wednesday, Whitmer said her administration wants to get the correct protocols in place for businesses that may reopen soon.

“I think that we’ve got an idea of what that looks like,” she said.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association has delayed fall football in lower Michigan to the spring. It’s unclear whether sports like volleyball, soccer and swimming will be permitted given Whitmer’s current restrictions on indoor practice facilities in lower Michigan. 

In a statement on Facebook, the MHSAA said it’s been in “constant contact” with Whitmer seeking answers and “direction for fall sports.”

High school athletes and parents gathered on the Capitol lawn Friday, Aug. 28, 2020 to protest changes to the high school athletic season during a "Let them play" rally.

“This direct communication will continue and we will take Gov. Whitmer at her word today that decisions will be made and shared with everyone very soon,” the organization added.

On Friday, football teams, cheerleaders and volleyball players gathered on the Capitol lawn to urge Whitmer and Michigan High School Athletic Association to guarantee high school sports will resume at Michigan schools this fall.

As of Wednesday, Michigan reported 103,710 confirmed cases of the virus and 6,509 deaths linked to it.

Gyms and movie theaters have been shuttered in the state since March in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19. Detroit’s three large casinos were allowed to reopen in early August at 15% capacity.

Business owners are hoping that they will be allowed to reopen soon.

“I think this is a critical week, and I am hopeful that we’re still going to see an announcement  yet this week so that things can get started,” said Brian Calley, president of the Small Business Association of Michigan.

Hillary Herring, owner of Inner Stallion Athletics in Ferndale, said her gym has been closed for indoor workouts since March 16. She’s been offering programs outdoors but when temperatures drop this fall, those will end, she said.

While Herring said she doesn’t fault Whitmer, she said, “I don’t know what’s going to happen in a couple of months if I can’t open.”


Staff Writer Beth LeBlanc contributed