• Michigan

MDHHS updates epidemic order to allow indoor non-contact winter sports to begin on Jan. 16

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, January 13, 2021, 1:42 pm

As it seems to always happen, a bit of good news was leavened by a large dose of not-so-good.

In Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Wednesday news conference at the Michigan Capitol with Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director Robert Gordon, they outlined an update to its epidemic order that subtly changed the landscape for winter high school sports.

Indoor, non-contact sports — gymnastics, swimming and diving, and bowling — can begin practice Saturday (Jan. 16) and competitions later this month, while the others that involve contact — competitive cheer, basketball, wrestling and hockey — will remain in a practice-only mode until the order’s expiration.

The order goes into effect on Jan. 16, and runs through Jan. 31, and the contact sports will be able to begin competition on Feb. 1. 

The lone outdoor non-contact winter sport, skiing, had already been allowed to compete since December. 

Swimming and diving may start competitions on Jan. 22, gymnastics and bowling on Jan. 25.

“Caution has worked for us in Michigan, and we are staying with our cautious approach today. … Much of the prior order remains in place … there is one change: In order to support physical and mental health, we’ll be permitting indoor athletics, provided there is distancing and masking,” Gordon said in the news conference. “Young people can practice sports in gyms, with distancing and masking. Playing those same sports competitively, if it involves contact, is not allowed.”

Masks will be required of all participants except when they are actively participating in gymnastics and swimming and diving, and — per MDHHS orders — crowds will be capped at 100 spectators in gymnasiums and 250 in stadiums and arenas.

With the change in the start dates for competition in the four contact sports, the Michigan High School Athletic Association is working on adjusting the tournament dates and season end points. 

“We are glad to have three more sports join skiing in returning to full activity, but we understand the disappointment and frustration on the part of our athletes and coaches whose sports are not yet able to restart completely,” MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl said in a news release later Wednesday afternoon. “We will continue to adjust schedules to provide all of our winter teams as substantial an experience this season as possible, as part of our greater plan this school year to play all three seasons to conclusion. 

“We have shown with our remaining Fall sports this month that our schools can participate safely, and we’re confident teams will continue to take all the appropriate precautions as we jump back into indoor Winter activities.”  

Under the current pause, imposed by MDHHS order in November, and extended through the holidays, winter sports have been in a holding pattern until the extension of the pause was set to expire on Jan. 15, while the remaining fall postseasons — football, volleyball and girls swimming — have begun the process of completion under a pilot testing program created by the MDHHS. 

Spring sports — and those fall teams not participating in the pilot program — may resume four-player workouts and conditioning on Jan. 16, but only non-contact activities. 

Wednesday’s news conference also indicated that indoor group fitness classes could begin this weekend, while indoor dining — under yet-to-be-announced guidelines — may be able to open as soon as Feb. 1.

“We need to get this right. I think it’s important to always reiterate: The strengths that we have now, the goals we have made, the leadership position we’re in now is all very tenuous. It depends on all of us continuing to take this virus seriously. I know that the numbers are overwhelming, and this moment has been hard, but I was aghast when I saw the national reporting last night that we lost 4,300 people in one 24-hour period in this nation,” Whitmer said. 

“We’re having a 9/11 event every day in this country. This virus is still a very real threat. So masking up, social distancing, hand-washing — these remain incredibly important tools that we have, and we hope people will continue to make sure that we’re using those tools, so we can open up more parts of our economy.”



• MDHHS gives MHSAA approval to allow limited spectators for remaining football, volleyball postseasons (Jan. 6)

• MHSAA: Girls swim finals, volleyball postseason will resume Jan. 4 with testing, finish by Jan. 16 (Dec. 29)

• MHSAA unwraps plans to finish three fall postseasons by end of January; football practices resume Dec. 28, playoffs on Jan. 9 (Dec. 26)

• MHSAA announces adjusted start dates, postseason schedule for winter sports (Dec. 23)

• FALSE START: MHSAA halts resumption of fall sports until rapid-result testing can commence at end of December (Dec. 22)

• MDHHS antigen testing pilot program will allow MHSAA to restart fall postseasons and conclude by end of extended ‘pause’ (Dec. 18)

• No action taken at Wednesday’s meeting of MHSAA’s Representative Council, as association plans for resumption of pushed-back seasons (Dec. 9)

• MHSAA’s Uyl expresses frustration at Monday’s extension of ‘pause,’ lack of explanation for keeping high school sports halted (Dec. 8)

• MDHHS and Gov. Whitmer extend ‘pause’ for 12 more days to help slow spread of COVID-19  (Dec. 7)

• MHSAA’s Uyl optimistic high school sports will be able to resume next week, but still waiting on edge of his seat to find out for sure (Dec. 4)

MHSAA’s Representative Council lays out initial plans for resuming fall postseasons in December (Nov. 18)

• With COVID-19 numbers quickly rising again, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, MDHHS shut down Michigan’s high school athletics again  (Nov. 15)

• No delays in the start of winter practices and competitions, MHSAA says (Oct. 23)

• Will winter sports start on time? MHSAA plans to give guidance to schools after Thursday’s meeting of Representative Council (Oct. 22)

• MHSAA: No changes to mask requirements, after Monday’s emergency order by MDHHS (Oct. 6)

• MHSAA tweaks cross country and swimming/diving tournaments to minimize number of participants, reverts girls golf to traditional field (Oct. 2)

• No more empty stadiums for MHSAA: Governor’s new EO allows increase in spectator numbers, starting Oct. 9 (Sept. 30)

• MHSAA offers guidance on Governor’s new mask Executive Order: ‘It is the MHSAA’s expectation that all members comply’ (Sept. 10)

MASK UP: Gov. Whitmer clarifies mask requirement for fall sports with EO requiring them for volleyball, soccer and football (Sept. 9)

Reversed field: MHSAA will indeed play football this fall, with shortened regular season (Sept. 3)

Gov. Whitmer allows of reopening of gyms and pools next week; MHSAA to play football despite MDHHS recommendation against contact sports (Sept. 3)

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says decision on reopening gyms, indoor athletic facilities coming ‘very soon’ (Sept. 2)

Still awaiting answers from governor’s office on fate of fall sports in limbo, MHSAA admits ‘the clock is ticking’ (Aug. 26)

MHSAA adds offseason football practice dates, hopes to have spring season set-up settled by mid-September (Aug. 20)

MHSAA approves start of competition for volleyball, boys soccer, girls swimming in two regions; rest of state still awaiting clarification from governor’s office (Aug. 20)

Announcement from MHSAA on fate of volleyball, swimming and soccer postponed (Aug. 19)

• MHSAA’s Uyl explains decision to postpone football: ‘What we were getting from our schools … was really to pump the brakes’  (Aug. 17)

MHSAA pulls plug on fall football, announcing decision to move it to the spring (Aug. 14)

College cancellations won’t force MHSAA’s hand, executive director Mark Uyl says; ‘Don’t make decisions just because somebody else did’ (Aug. 12)

Lansing School District cancels fall extracurricular activities, including athletics (Aug. 7)

MHSAA Representative Council gives thumbs-up to on-time start for lower-risk fall sports, tables decision on competition for high-risk sports (July 29)

• MHSAA announces plan to begin 2020-21 school year as traditionally scheduled, leaving football (for now) in the fall (July 17)

• For now, plan is still to have fall sports in the fall, MHSAA reassures its membership (July 2)

What does the ‘MI Safe Schools’ return to school roadmap say about high school sports? Here’s a look (July 1)

Gov. Whitmer to MHSAA: Consider moving contact sports back from the fall (June 30)

• New allowance from from governor’s office doesn’t change much: Schools allowed to resume sports activities prior to end of 2019-20 school year (June 12)

• MHSAA updates guidelines, allowing northern Michigan schools to move workouts indoors starting Wednesday (June 9)

• MHSAA adjusts to curveball of early lifting of stay-at-home order, amends guidance doc for reopening sports  (June 2)

• Gov. Whitmer lifts stay-at-home order early, providing increasing clarity on ‘when’ high school sports can resume (June 1)

• MHSAA releases ‘Guidance for Opening School Sports’ document, outlining a roadmap of ‘how’ high school sports can resume in Michigan (May 29)

• Friday’s roadmap from MHSAA will give ‘how’ school athletics will return, but maybe not ‘when’: ‘We still can’t rush this’ (May 28)

• MHSAA gives schools heads up that ‘Guidance for Opening School Sports’ is coming next week (May 22)

• Q&A with MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl, after Friday’s decision to cancel remaining 2019-20 sports seasons (April 3)

• MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl explains agonizing decision to cancel remainder of winter and spring seasons; ‘My heart absolutely breaks for kids in the class of 2020’ (April 3)

• MHSAA officially cancels spring and winter sports, putting an end to the 2019-20 athletic year (April 3)

• Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announces closure of Michigan schools for remainder of 2019-20, stipulates K-12 sports are suspended ‘while state of emergency … is in effect’ (April 2)

• With Gov. Whitmer reportedly set to close Michigan schools for remainder of academic year, can cancellation of high school sports be far behind?  (March 30)

• ‘What now?’ and ‘What next?’: A look at how Michigan’s prep athletes are coping with the ‘pause’ of the postseason, and what it might theoretically take to ‘unpause’ (March 17)

• MHSAA extends halt of athletic activities to include practices, scrimmages until at least April 5(March 13)

• MHSAA puts postseason on pause due to concerns over COVID-19 (March 12)

• UPDATED: MHSAA postseasons impacted by coronavirus; games put on pause, postponed indefinitely (March 11)