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Fitness organizations gear up for reopening of indoor activities

DOWAGIAC — Area fitness organizations received good news from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Wednesday afternoon press conference.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services updated its epidemic order to allow reopening of activities where Michigan residents can remain masked and socially distanced, including indoor group exercise and non-contact sports. The new order goes into effect Saturday, Jan. 16 and is scheduled to last until Sunday, Jan. 31.

Mary Green, owner and operator of Green Dance Academy’s Niles, Decatur and Dowagiac locations, is looking forward to instructing her students in-person soon.

“We are very excited to be back in person here in the studio,” Green said. “It has been difficult because I’m an instructor. I miss being able to connect with my kids in person. All of my teachers are excited to be back in person and work with them on a daily basis again, and I know the kids are excited too.”

The order stipulates that exercise facility gatherings must not exceed 25 percent of the total occupancy limits established by a local fire marshal and calls for all persons to maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others at all times and wear a face mask at all times.

According to Green, meeting these requirements will not be an issue.

“Our studios are different sizes,” she said. “We have had a limit on the number of dancers in each class. We will have designated spots for each dancer on the floor. Everything will be designed to be safe for each kid.”

Green said the studios have been conducting Zoom classes in order to stay active.

“It’s a nice tool to have,” Green said. “We still see everyone virtually, but we’re all excited to resume that in-person instruction.”

In Cass County, the authorization of indoor exercise is something that the Cass County Council on Aging is looking into for its senior clientele.

“It’s still something the board will be looking at,” said Council on Aging CEO Marty Heirty. “We have a board meeting Tuesday where we will decide what programs we’ll offer.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, eight out of 10 COVID-19 deaths reported in the U.S. have been adults 65 and older. Heirty and the COA are treading carefully as they work to find a way to support their at-risk client population.

“We are working with a population that is susceptible to the virus,” Heirty said. “We have always been extra cautious. Even though it is open with restriction, we are not sure opening our facilities is something we’re able to do at this time.”

According to Heirty, the COA’s fitness centers have been closed for almost an entire year and could continue to be closed pending the board’s decision next week.

“It is an important program to us,” he said. “Our fitness instructors have had contact with regulars. We’ve heard stories about how people are having trouble balancing and walking because of the lack of exercises for almost a year. We have been offering Zoom classes for yoga and tai chi. Those are popular. It’s not a perfect solution but it works. Getting out and doing things is an important part of their lives. We’re aware of how important activities are and we will decide what is best for our members going forward.”

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