(The Center Square) – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a Tuesday news conference gave business owners who’ve waited longer than five months to reopen no answers.
Last week, Whitmer said she might give more information this week about reopening gyms, movie theaters and bowling alleys in most of Michigan.
She hasn’t yet.
“I’m not going to be bullied into making that decision,” Whitmer said of whether she’d announce the reopening of those businesses.
Whitmer said Michigan has fared better than other states, and has reactivated 87 percent of its economy, but warned that “all of this success is precarious. We’re going to continue to make decisions based on facts and data.”
It’s not clear what that data is.
The daily number of COVID-19 deaths and cases peaked in April.
The number of confirmed cases has been climbing since June, but the number of deaths has been relatively steady since then.
State data, as recent as Aug. 20, shows Michigan has tallied 292 COVID-19 outbreaks.
Four of those might have been from a gym, but gyms are lumped into the “personal services” category that also encompasses nail and hair salons and spas.
All four cases originated from region 2S – Monroe, Washtenaw and Wayne counties, and Detroit, where gyms aren’t allowed to operate.
The majority of the remaining cases were:
- 92 outbreaks from long-term care facilities
- 35 from social gatherings
- 22 agriculture/food processing
- 19 for combined bars and restaurants
There were no reported COVID-19 outbreaks in the Traverse City region or the Upper Peninsula, where gyms and bowling alleys have been allowed to operate for the past three months.
Owners of gyms, bowling alleys, and movie theaters in the rest of the state have been frustrated after taking safety measures but not getting the green light to reopen.
Whitmer previously gave those industries a July 4 target reopening date but backed down when COVID-19 cases started climbing.
Some gym owners have given up waiting for the state’s permission and reopened in defiance of Whitmer’s orders.
Conquest Fitness in DeWitt and Bath Townships have been open for weeks.
“We ultimately realized two things: We’ve been Covid-ready and waiting to reopen for months, and if we waited much longer, we would no longer be in business,” Director of Operations Andre Hutson told the Lansing State Journal.
Alyssa Tushman, the owner of Burn Fitness in Clawson, Livonia, and Rochester, has said her businesses owe a lot of back rent, and one of her landlords is suing.
“My entire world, my entire financial present, past, and future rides on this,” Tushman said.
Rich Kenny, owner of Forest View Lanes in Temperance, has spent more than $30,000 on safety precautions to reopen.
Kenny says he’ll lose his business if he can’t reopen by Labor Day.
Business groups last week asked Whitmer to reopen those industries safely – and soon.
“Michigan is one of a handful of states that has not allowed these sectors to open in any capacity,” the letter reads. “These businesses have been completely closed after months of the public health emergency, while still facing property tax bills, rent, payroll and other expenses.”