Gov. Whitmer expected to announce plan to reopen Michigan gyms, movie theaters

Gyms have been closed more than 5 months due to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to announce a plan to reopen gyms and movie theaters that have been closed since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Local 4 has learned.

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to announce a plan to reopen gyms and movie theaters that have been closed since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Local 4 has learned.

COVID-19 numbers have hit a plateau in Michigan over the past few weeks, and so far, no outbreaks have been traced back to gyms in Northern Michigan, where they’ve been open since July. Gym owners say they believe Whitmer is going to talk this week about allowing them to reopen.

Gym owners expect Whitmer to hold a news conference by Wednesday. Most already have all their protocols in place. Ohio has had its gyms open since the end of May.

Expect changes at the gym

If you do plan on returning to the gym, expect changes to your workout. For example, at Planet Fitness there will be no contact entry and an app that will let you know how busy the gym is. All the equipment has been distanced and there are cleaning protocols in place.

There won’t be any group fitness classes or showers -- but other amenities, like tanning, will be available. In Ohio, you are not required to wear a mask while you work out but you do need one when you move through the gym.

Gym owners expect Whitmer will be releasing details on her plan this week, with the expectation that Metro Detroit gyms would be able to reopen after Labor Day.

“We’ve been ready,” Planet Fitness Regional Manager Barbara Taormina said. “The one benefit of COVID is we’ve had plenty of time on our hands and have come up with a 90-page plan which details how to keep you safe from the moment you come to work out to when you leave.”

The Michigan Fitness Club Association has been lobbying Whitmer to reopen gyms. The group is hopeful that, barring a sudden spike in cases, the announcement will come by Wednesday.

Local 4 is also expecting to hear more about movie theaters, ice rinks and bowling alleys reopening.

Michigan's governor might open theater and gyms earlier than expected

Long closure

Gyms across the state have been shut down for more than five months due to the pandemic. While many other businesses have reopened throughout the year, gyms and bowling alleys are among those that have remained closed.

During her Tuesday (Aug. 25) briefing, Whitmer said she’s “not going to be bullied” into reopening businesses that are still closed because of COVID-19.

Whitmer was asked whether she had an update for business owners who have been trying to reopen for months.

READ: Michigan’s top medical official updates how COVID-19 cases are trending in all 8 regions

“I’m not going to be bullied into making that decision,” Whitmer said. “I’m going to follow the science. I’m going to work with Dr. (Joneigh) Khaldun, but we are looking very closely at those businesses that have been closed for the duration to determine if those protocols are there and if the seven-day averages and the number of positive cases per million per day would support doing a little more on those fronts.

“There’s no decision that I’m announcing today. It’s something that we’re continuing to scrutinize and determine if it’s safe to move forward. I am in earnest looking at that, working with the department, working with Dr. Khaldun on those fronts. It’s too early to say yet.”

The governor acknowledged that there’s immense pressure on business owners, public health officials and decision makers as a result of the pandemic. But she said she still has to make decisions based on the advice of the state’s medical experts.

“We’re going to continue to make decisions based on facts and data and recommendations from health experts like Dr. Khaldun and the University of Michigan Public Health,” Whitmer said.

MORE: Here’s what 6 Michigan businesses did to get fined thousands for breaking COVID-19 protocols

She said early aggressive action against the pandemic helped Michigan go from one of the hardest-hit states in the country to 40th in the nation in terms of seven-day average of new cases per capita and the number of people testing positive on diagnostic tests.

“Those are good pieces of information, positive pieces of information,” Whitmer said. “It’s a testament to the work that we’ve done. It’s a testament to following the science, and it’s a testament to the people of Michigan taking this seriously and doing the right thing.”

She said the economy is operating at 87% of where it was in early March, before the first stay-at-home order was issued.

LATEST: Michigan Court of Appeals rules Gov. Whitmer has authority to use emergency pandemic powers

Officials continue to assess if protocols are in place to safely reopen the businesses that remain closed, Whitmer said.

“We are assessing if there are sufficient protocols around businesses that have not yet been engaged to see if we can start to reengage at some level on those fronts,” Whitmer said.

More coverage

Here’s much more of our COVID-19 coverage.

Whitmer’s handling of pandemic:

Reopening Michigan:

Health questions, advice:




Individual stories:


About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.