• Michigan

In TV interview, Gov. Whitmer says easing of restrictions on indoor contact sports ‘may happen in the coming weeks or days’

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, January 28, 2021, 11:27 am

While still expressing concern over the new COVID-19 variant, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a TV interview Thursday morning the easing of restrictions on indoor contact high school sports may be a “very possible thing that may happen in the coming weeks or days.”

The governor was on WXYZ-TV in Detroit to recap her third State of the State address from Wednesday night, and was asked whether or not the statewide push — on social media, as well as from the Michigan High School Athletic Association, school administrators and the ‘Let Them Play’ movement — would get the state ‘might change its mind.’

“It’s not about changing our mind, it’s about being smart about when the numbers support taking this next step, and we’re in a stronger position than most other states in our region, and even across the country. So that is a very possible thing that may happen in the coming weeks or days,” Whitmer answered.

[You can see the full interview by CLICKING HERE. The key question begins at the 2:30 mark]

Indoor contact sports — boys and girls basketball, hockey, wrestling and competitive cheer — have been pushed back by the statewide ‘pause’ since November, by epidemic order from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The MDHHS made allowances for three fall postseasons — football, volleyball and girls swimming — to conclude in January under a pilot rapid-testing program, and updated its epidemic order mid-month to allow the winter’s non-contact indoor sports — gymnastics, swimming and diving and bowling — to begin on Jan. 16. As an outdoor non-contact sport, skiing has been allowed to compete since December. 

Currently, the indoor contact sports cannot begin competition (or contact in practices) until at least Feb. 21. 

Thursday’s interview came a few hours before the Michigan Senate’s Education Committee heard impassioned testimony Thursday morning from student athletes about the resumption of indoor contact sports, which eventually led to the unanimous approval of a (non-binding) resolution to urge Gov. Whitmer to allow their return. 

While MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl sounded a note of cautious optimism about the newly improved communications with the new leadership at the MDHHS in a Wednesday radio interview, and the governor herself floated the possibility of the restrictions soon being eased, both of them also raised concerns about the impact the new variant might have on what have been steadily improving numbers across the state for the last three months. 

“But the fact of the matter is, the variant is very concerning. We know the one that came out of the UK has been present in Washtenaw County, probably beyond. There’s a variant that’s coming out of Brazil that’s even more deadly,” Whitmer said. “So it’s the context that matters, as we’re looking at these numbers, too. But trust me, as a parent of a high schooler myself, I’d love to get this part of life reengaged, but getting kids back in the classroom, that’s paramount.”