Joint Select Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic Chair Matt Hall today said testimony from local fitness and training center owners demonstrates the short-sightedness of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s policies as lives and livelihoods continue to be impacted.
“We heard from small family businesses who feel they can open safely and sensibly and – at the governor’s direction – have crafted ways to do so,” said Hall, of Marshall. “But they are growing increasingly frustrated and discouraged as Gov. Whitmer ignores their developed plans for months, they remain closed and their bills pile up.”
Owners of fitness and youth swimming instruction centers, as well as training and recreational facilities, spoke to the committee on Wednesday about the seemingly endless waiting game they continue to play with Gov. Whitmer’s administration. Some openly wondered how much longer they will be able to last before having to close for good.
Cindy Scharns, owner of Branch Gymnastics locations in Battle Creek and Kalamazoo, said it has been difficult for her small business to remain closed, while also trying to provide athletes she usually works with other avenues to train. A popular avenue has led into Indiana, where training facilities are open.
“I’ve heard from many families across Kalamazoo and Calhoun counties who take their children to Branch Gymnastics and because of the governor’s orders shutting down gymnastics facilities, their children are missing out on opportunities to socialize, exercise and develop their skills,” Hall said. “We heard from one young athlete who lost out on college scholarship opportunities because of these shutdowns. She used gymnastics training as a way to cope with her father recently passing away.
“These decisions have unintended consequences that Gov. Whitmer is choosing not to weigh. Gyms are in the business of helping people exercise and get fit. This helps prevent mental health issues, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes – some of the underlying health conditions COVID-19 preys on.”
Hall said he has personally heard from many local businesses and their operators concerned about closures, including Marshall Lanes, area YMCAs and Planet Fitness centers. Hall underscored continued closings for gyms and youth swimming instruction through indoor pools as evidence of the short-sightedness in Gov. Whitmer’s plans. The restriction on youth swimming instruction was lifted just hours after the select committee met Wednesday, as Gov. Whitmer reversed course and allowed its resumption with limited capacity in indoor pools.
“Swimming lessons for children prevent drowning deaths. Governor Whitmer changed her policy after our committee provided a voice to people who pointed out the harm these policies could cause for children. This smarter approach allows these life-saving courses to be taught in a safe fashion and for instructors to be able to make a living. It’s a positive step in resuming activity safely and sensibly. But it’s important for the public, as well as legislators who serve as their voice, to hear from the governor on what is going into these decisions instead of having to wait for her to change course.”