Michigan Reinstates Fall Sports; Reopens Gyms, Pools

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All Michigan high school athletes will get a fall season after all.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order Thursday reinstating prep football while also allowing gyms and pools across the state to reopen Sept. 9. All activities will be allowed to resume as long as certain health and safety protocols are followed.

“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,” Whitmer said. “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.” 

Last month, the Michigan High School Athletic Association announced it was moving the 2020 football season to the spring of 2021 to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Related content: Michigan Governor: Flip Fall, Spring Prep Seasons


“At the end of the day, we did everything we could to find a path forward for football this fall,” MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl said Aug. 14, according to the Detroit Free Press. “But while continuing to connect with the Governor’s office, state health department officials, our member schools’ personnel and the council, there is just too much uncertainty and too many unknowns to play football this fall.”

The thinking has changed in the past three weeks, with the Free Press reporting that the MHSAA Representative Council voted to reinstate all sports. Prep volleyball, boys soccer and girls swimming will begin Wednesday. Football practice can resume Tuesday, with the six-game regular season set to begin Sept. 18. Every team will be eligible for the playoffs.

The decision to resume all sports was made in part because of positive data from other states that have resumed play.

“With 25 states practicing and playing games and another eight states ready to go in a couple of days, it’s different than three weeks ago,” Uyl told the Free Press Thursday. “You’re seeing states, whose COVID-19 numbers are far worse than Michigan’s. It has been, nationwide, a very successful start to the year.”

There will still be precautions. Each athlete will be allowed to have two guests present at indoor sporting events. Outdoor events will allow organizers the opportunity to limit attendance to two guests per athlete or to 100 people maximum, including athletes, coaches and staff members.

Whitmer’s order noted that the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services also released guidance Thursday, recommending against contact sports like football, basketball and soccer. The MDHHS also recommended frequent hand washing; not letting players share towels, clothing, or other items they use to wipe their faces or hands; ensuring proper cleaning and disinfection of objects and equipment; and prioritizing outdoor practice. 

“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,” chief medical executive and MDHHS chief deputy for health Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said. “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.”

Related content: AT Survey Reveals Impact of COVID on HS Sports

“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." 

In order to reopen, gyms must require everyone to wear masks — even when exercising — as well as “configure workout stations or implement protocols to enable six feet of distance between individuals during exercise sessions, reduce class sizes to enable six feet of separation between individuals, provide equipment-cleaning products throughout the gym, and more.”

Other guides, according to the Free Press, include:

  • Try to provide the option of exercising outside.
  • Maintain records showing the date and time when customers enter and leave, while collecting the names and contact information of customers. Facilities need to deny entry to anyone who does not give their name and phone number.
  • Enforce a mask mandate for all activities except swimming.
  • Only operate at 25% capacity.
  • Orient equipment and barriers to maximize social distancing, ensuring 6 feet of distance between people exercising.
  • Offer smaller classes to ensure 6 feet of separation between individuals.
  • Offer cleaning supplies for the equipment.
  • Provide hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, soap and water and similar products.
  • Regularly disinfect exercise equipment, especially right after use. Gyms can require customers to do this, but they must post signs encouraging disinfecting the equipment.
  • Make sure the ventilation systems works well.
  • Open windows and doors, use fans and do anything else that facilitates air circulation.
  • Close steam rooms, saunas, jacuzzis, and similar sites. 
  • Post signs on doors telling customers not to enter if they are sick or recently felt sick.

Related content: Maine Officials: Schools Unequipped to Resume Sports

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