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Whitmer discusses restarting professional sports, spike in statewide COVID-19 cases

June 26, 2020
<p>Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer waves to the crowd during her second State of the State address at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing on Jan. 29, 2020.</p>

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer waves to the crowd during her second State of the State address at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing on Jan. 29, 2020.

Photo by Connor Desilets | The State News

This week, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order allowing professional sports to restart and addressed the spikes in statewide COVID-19 case numbers and the reopening of gyms.

According to the executive order, professional sports teams and leagues may resume, provided that no live audience is in attendance, the activities are conducted in accordance with a COVID-19 safety plan and athletes must remain six feet apart from one another to the extent compatible with the sport. 

Staff at the facility in which the event is held and media personnel are permitted to be at events.

“Good news, sports fans,” Whitmer said in a statement. “We are now ready to gradually and safely allow professional sports to resume in Michigan. While this is an encouraging step in the reopening of our economy, it is critical for athletes to continue social distancing and taking precautions to stay safe. We want to keep our momentum going and keep moving forward, so it’s incumbent on everyone doing their part to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

According to the Michigan coronavirus website, the state has recorded 62,306 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 5,886 deaths, as of June 25. 

While Whitmer had previously expressed hope that the entire state would enter Phase 5 of the MI Safe Start Plan before July 4, the recent spikes of COVID-19 have forced her to reconsider. 

In an interview with FOX 2, Whitmer addressed the spikes related to Harper’s Restaurant and Brewpub

“We’ve made such sacrifice to push these numbers down,” Whitmer told FOX 2. “We’ve saved thousands of lives. We’ve put Michigan in a leadership position where people are looking at us and wanting to be where we are. And yet, people are dropping their guard. … My concern is that if people drop their guard, we’ll see outbreaks of COVID-19.”

The governor also experienced a legal victory this week after the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals granted her motion to keep gyms closed in the state. 

While a federal judge previously ruled Michigan gyms could reopen on June 26, Whitmer appealed the ruling and the court sided with her.

“Today three Republican-appointed judges got it right: in the fight against a global pandemic, courts must give governors broad latitude to make quick, difficult decisions. The governor will continue to take the actions necessary to save lives,” a statement from the governor's office said.

In regard to unemployment, Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) announced on Tuesday that it intends to clear its backlog and make an eligibility determination by July 4 on 11,824 workers with unpaid claims filed before May 1.

“We know COVID-19 continues to cause fear and frustration for these families and we are working … around the clock and enhance our resources to quickly eliminate the remaining backlog and get every worker the emergency financial assistance they’re entitled to,” UIA Director Steve Gray said in a statement

The agency will announce a target date to make a determination on claims filed after May 1, according to the news release.

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