This week, Men’s Fitness came out with an article about how gyms are dealing with the coronavirus. (What Gyms and Fitness Centers Are Doing About Coronavirus) This is definitely something we should all be considering, but first, let’s start with the facts.
- It’s spread person-to-person and surface-to-person. So, if someone coughs or sneezes within 6ft of you, the particles could land in your eyes, nose, or mouth or be could inhaled. You could also touch a surface that has the virus on it and then touch your mouth, nose, or eyes. (CDC)
- At the writing of this post, in the US there are 80 reported cases from 13 states and 9 deaths. There will be many more. (CDC)
- There is no vaccine to prevent it and no approved medical interventions to treat it. However, “most people in the United States will have little immediate risk of exposure to this virus.” and while the symptoms can range from mild to severe and even death, the most severe cases are in the elderly in those with compromised heart and respiratory systems. (CDC)
- For Prevention, the CDC recommends:
- “Avoid close contact with people who are sick.” No surprise here.
- “Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.” Harder than you may think. Start practicing.
- “Stay home when you are sick.” Now is not the time to brave through it. Think of those you could be infecting.
- “Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.” So, carry tissues.
- “Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.”
- “CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from COVID-19.” Here’s news. Reserve their use for medical professionals or if you are already sick.
- “Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.”
Back to what this means as fitness professionals, what should we expect and what should we be doing? Here’s my list of “at the gym or studio” guidelines.
- Post guidelines for members that include:
- Stay at home if you are sick.
- Cover your mouth with a tissue when you sneeze or cough.
- Disinfect any equipment that you touch.
- Wash or sanitize your hands frequently.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
- Have staff disinfect frequently handled objects such as door handles, locker latches, etc.
- Provide plenty of disinfecting spray bottles and cloth or paper towels to wipe equipment with. Have these located all around the facility. If they are not convenient, they won’t be used.
- Have plenty of tissues around the facility.
- Have plenty of hand sanitizer around the facility.
- Have plenty of antibacterial soap and paper towels in the locker rooms and restrooms.
This will make your club as safe as it can be, but that may not be enough for some people. When it comes to risking sickness, people get afraid. Fear is a powerful emotion. It’s visceral and in spite of the low risk of contracting the virus at your facility, people will be avoiding heavily populated places, yours included. That becomes a whole other problem. Loss of income for you and, for the member, loss of training time and its benefits.
This would be a time to:
- Have members work with a personal trainer to create an “at home” workout program.
- Provide an online training program.
- Create a hybrid training program the combines the two options above.
- Stream classes for members use.
The coronavirus is a real issue that’s not going away soon. The best way to deal with it is by knowing the latest news from a reputable source (I’m sticking with the CDC as my main source), being proactive in managing your facility’s sanitizing measures, and by being proactive in handling your members fears and needs.