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Gyms, pools can open, sports resume

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published September 8, 2020

MACOMB COUNTY — Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel is hoping a new state order will allow community citizens, businesses and other departments and organizations to operate in a proactive manner moving forward.

On Sept. 3, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order reopening Michigan’s gyms and pools in regions, including Macomb County, where they remained closed. Organized sporting activities, such as practices and competitions, were also allowed to resume.

The order stipulates “strict workplace safety measures” that gyms and pools must adhere to continue to combat the spread of COVID-19.

“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. … 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 statement. “Be smart, and stay safe.”

Chief Medical Executive and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Chief Deputy for Health Dr. Joneigh Khaldun added, “Contact sports create a high risk of COVID-19 transmission and MDHHS strongly recommends against participating in them at this time.”

Khaldun said that the state is “not out of the woods yet.”

“The health and safety of our members, staff, and the public in general is our top priority,” said Alyssa Tushman, vice chair of the Michigan Fitness Club Association, in a statement. “We are well-prepared to ensure a safe, clean environment and we are excited to offer Michiganders the opportunity to resume their exercise routines. We look forward to working with Gov. Whitmer and her administration to help build a healthy Michigan.” 


‘They want to be part of the solution’

Hackel said the state and nation has long been dealing with the “dual issue” of a health crisis and an economic crisis.

He said that while Whitmer has said a “surge” has occurred in COVID-19 cases, deaths have decreased from approximately 600 in Macomb County in April to about 16 to 20 deaths the past two months.

That is while the economy has progressively become more open, he noted, and as many residents have gone back to work. The percentage of positive cases in April, about 47%, has dropped to about 6% now.

“Every metric you want to look at, if you compare apples to apples, there’s been a decline (in cases and deaths). … The concern I’m having is, allow (businesses) to open and give them a chance,” he said. “They want to be a part of the solution.”

He also wants to limit the governor’s emergency power, in large part because it makes Michigan’s Legislature unable to properly weigh in on issues and “ask specific questions.”

“Let’s see proof in data,” Hackel said. “(Legislators) can’t weigh in on these decisions and it only allows one person to make the decisions. … The irony there, something is a little off. You would think you would let our legislators weigh in on this and apply some state standards.”

Now, he said, school boards of education have become the decided legislative bodies in communities, where an “incredible amount of tension” exists between teachers, parents and administrators. The school debate rages on as restaurants and bars, and now gyms, are open.

Hackel said that while citizens should follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, all entities should work together because the virus won’t disappear completely, saying, “We have to figure out how we live with this and manage the crisis the best we can.”

“We know we can’t keep sheltered at place and keep the economy shut down,” he continued. “The question is, how do we open it in a safer fashion?”

As for gyms, Hackel said many independently-owned fitness centers in southeast Michigan have been open for a while. Golf courses and salons have been opened a while, too, and “we are not hearing many problems,” he said.

“This is their livelihood,” he said. “I don’t think you saw a lot of litigation on behalf of the AG’s office and the state. I think they knew they’re open. … If we have an issue, nothing says we can’t pull back and shut down. We have clearly flattened the curve.”