MLive.com, Walker, Mich.
Michigan’s COVID-19 executive orders are fairly lengthy. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for loopholes, questions and ambiguities.
Gyms and fitness centers across Michigan were given the green light to open Wednesday, Sept. 9 after nearly six months of being shut down. Naturally, gym owners and others had questions about what the changes mean.
To help clarify, Michigan’s Director of COVID-19 Workplace Safety Sean Egan hosted a virtual question-and-answer session on Wednesday that gym industry leaders could partake in.
Here’s a look at 20 questions people asked during the session and Egan’s responses.
1. What if guests refuse to provide their name and phone number?
Gyms are required to keep records of all guests who come in and out – including the time, their name and their phone number.
If a person refuses to share that information, they must be denied entry, Egan said. Such information is key for contact tracing in the event a person from the facility later tests positive for the virus.
2. When does the 10-person limit apply?
Fitness centers are limited to 25% of their normal capacity. But they’re handcuffed further when it comes to classes – which are limited to 10 people, Egan said.
3. What if 6 feet of distance can’t be maintained?
Whether it’s a class or an individual workout, people must stay 6 feet apart at all times. If that’s not possible for a class in a small space, the class size must be reduced further.
“That’s not an option in the gyms and fitness centers, (to) not maintain 6 feet,” Egan said.
4. Can the 6-foot rule be ignored for weightlifting spotters?
Spotters are not exempt from the 6-foot rule when helping others lift weights, Egan said.
People should consider that before they start lifting, so as to avoid potential injuries, he said.
5. What if a class is hosted in a particularly large gym?
If a class is inside, no more than 10 people can participate, Egan said – regardless of how big the space is.
6. How do the rules apply to hotel fitness areas?
The same protocols must be followed at hotel gyms if they want to reopen, Egan said – including gathering check-in information, requiring masks and limiting the capacity to 25%.
7. Are masks required while working out at gyms up north, too?
When Gov. Gretchen Whitmer first reopened gyms in northern Michigan earlier in the summer, masks weren’t required while working out. The new order mandates masks must be worn at all times, with few exceptions.
And the mask requirement applies to the northern Michigan regions, as well as the rest of the state, Egan said.
This is being mandated because of the continual rise in cases in northern Michigan, Egan said, as well as for consistency’s sake.
8. Are masks required if there’s only one person in the gym?
Even if there’s only one person working out in a space, Egan said they must wear a mask.
9. What if you can’t medically tolerate a mask?
While some previous executive orders exempt people from wearing masks if they can’t medically tolerate one, Egan said his interpretation of the latest order doesn’t allow for such an exemption in gyms.
“We will clarify if necessary,” Egan said. “But at this time, you’re required to wear a face covering in a fitness center.”
10. Are masks required in bowling alleys, ice rinks, etc. at all times?
Recreational facilities like bowling alleys and ice rinks can also reopen now, although only for organized sporting events. And just like gyms, masks are required at all times for people, Egan said.
11. Are face shields OK?
No, face shields do not count as a face covering in gyms, Egan said.
Gyms have stricter masking requirements because the activity is more likely to spread aerosols between people, Egan said. The virus spreads largely through large respiratory droplets – oftentimes from people who don’t have symptoms of sickness.
When people exercise, they’re breathing harder and exhaling more particles into the air and further, Egan said.
“A face shield is not going to stop that from escaping either under the bottom or out the back,” Egan said. “It’s not going to protect those folks that are around you.”
12. Is it safe for athletes to wear masks while exercising?
A few other types of face coverings are also not recommended: Masks with valves and gaiter face coverings that go around your neck have both proven to be less effective, Egan said.
Gyms should be requiring cloth masks or surgical masks only, he said.
13. If there are partitions between each person, are masks still required?
While partitions separating people are a good thing, Egan said this doesn’t negate the mask requirement.
14. Can swim lessons for kids restart?
Swim lessons can take place in indoor pools as long as the capacity is limited to 25%, Egan said.
Also of note – pools are one of the only spaces exempt from the mask requirement.
15. Can hotel whirlpools open?
No, whirlpools, steam rooms, saunas and related areas are not allowed to open in any public setting.
16. Can locker room showers reopen – and are masks required there?
Yes, locker rooms and showers can reopen in gyms, Egan said, although they need to be continuously and meticulously cleaned.
Showers are one of the other spaces exempt from the mask requirement, Egan said.
17. Where can people go to file a complaint?
If rules aren’t being followed, Egan suggests guests alert their local health department. If an employee wants to file a complaint regarding workplace safety, they should call the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
18. Should HEPA filters and UV lights be used?
Using strong air filters with a MERV rating 13 or higher or a HEPA filter is a good way to reduce the potential for the coronavirus to be spread through a facility, Egan said.
Ultraviolet light can also be set up to kill potential viruses. Egan recommends talking with an engineer or HVAC specialist before making changes. There are also portable devices that can filter the air.
UV light wands and 11 other tools businesses are using against coronavirus
Other options include opening the damper to let more outside air in and having more air exchanges per hour, Egan said. If the same indoor air keeps getting recirculated, it’s more likely for the virus to be spread around and not dissipate.
19. Can fans be used?
There’s no rule against using fans, but Egan says people should think about where they place them.
“One of the things we’re concerned with is that you’re blowing across people,” Egan said.
Fans can blow potential virus particles into other people’s spaces even if they’re further than 6 feet away, Egan said. An example of a good fan set up is to blow them toward a single horizontal line of people in a spin class with nobody behind them.
20. Do gyms need to temperature screen guests?
Temperature screening for guests is not a requirement, but Egan recommends gyms try to do so if they’re able.
21. Can a gym kick somebody out for not wearing a mask properly?
Yes. But it’s best to make proper mask wearing clear with signage, verbal reminders and other tools before kicking somebody out – so as to avoid a confrontation.
“If it’s not covering their nose, mouth and chin, it’s not doing what we’re trying to do,” Egan said.
Enforcing these rules is crucial to keeping Michigan’s COVID-19 numbers down and, in turn, allowing gyms and other businesses to stay open.
“It’s not just the bad actor down the street that’s going to be impacted by an outbreak, it’s going to be all of us,” Egan said. “So we need that peer pressure, we need to support each other, we need you to push this message down and out to your communities.”
COVID-19 PREVENTION TIPS
In addition to washing hands regularly and not touching your face, officials recommend practicing social distancing, assuming anyone may be carrying the virus.
Health officials say you should be staying at least 6 feet away from others and working from home, if possible.
Use disinfecting wipes or disinfecting spray cleaners on frequently-touched surfaces in your home (door handles, faucets, countertops) and carry hand sanitizer with you when you go into places like stores.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has also issued executive orders requiring people to wear face coverings over their mouth and nose while in public indoor and crowded outdoor spaces. See an explanation of what that means here.
Additional information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.
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