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VS&F Journey

Tackling COVID-19 at Health Clubs

By Dan Doenges | In Gym | on October 15, 2020

Gyms are in the news a lot right now in discussions about COVID-19. Let’s go over the five main safety concerns and talk about how we tackle each one at VS&F.

Our approach is to understand the risk, stay vigilant and act carefully, so that we can adjust as needed and still live our lives. 

Discussion point #1

Gyms are a place where the virus can spread because it thrives and possibly aerosolizes in small enclosed spaces with poor air flow and large gatherings of people.

VS&F Risk Management:  There is nothing incorrect about the statement above other than the fact that it does not describe our health club.

Our health club is 37,000 square feet with few-to-no small enclosed spaces. And we are extremely focused on air quality. As you can imagine, no one wants to work out in a space that is stuffy or has a lack of air exchange. To lower our risk further we have adjusted our HVAC to ventilate indoor air out and fresh air in continuously. This, along with our cavernous spaces and thin insulation makes for great air exchange.

We do not have large gatherings of people. With significantly reduced class sizes, and the large size of our facility, everyone can easily keep their distance. Even with a full parking lot there are never more than 15 people in any one space. This may not be the case in a large city gym but here at VS&F it’s the norm.

Discussion point #2

Gyms can spread the virus because of the sharing of equipment by members.

VS&F Risk Management:  At Vermont Sport & Fitness we have always had a focus on sanitation and now with COVID-19 we have redoubled our efforts. There are 20 separate spray sanitizer stations which allow all members to wipe down their equipment before and after use, as required by club rules. Additionally, we have upgraded our cleaning solution to one approved by the EPA to kill COVID-19. This along with hand sanitizer located throughout the club helps reduce the risk of surface transmission.

Even though surfaces are now seen to be a less common modality for transferring the virus we and our members have made sure to do everything we can to minimize this risk.

Discussion point #3+

People are not good about wearing masks throughout the gym.

Or on the flip side…

I don’t think I can work out vigorously with a mask on.

VS&F Risk Management: We understand that people have concerns on both sides of this discussion. The state has updated us with direct guidance to form our policy.

So my advice is to continue to strongly advise/require the use of masks whenever feasible while on the premises but recognize that strenuous activity might preclude their use. That also means they should always be with the person so they can be used in between activities and at all other times.

Dr Levine, Commissioner of Health, State of Vermont

This is exactly the balance we strive for and we have been receiving high marks for continued improvement on full compliance. We have an amazing group that understands that this is the best way to stay safe and stay open. We have a culture of health and safety that may not exist in every gym setting.

Discussion point #4

Indoor venues are high risk.

VS&F Risk Management: Every indoor facility has risk but the greatest risk comes from the prevalence of the virus in the community, more-so than the venue.

As Dr. Fauci reminds us, it’s best to start by assessing the level of infection in your community.

Carol A. Winner. https://www.health.com/condition/infectious-diseases/coronavirus/dr-fauci-warns-shutting-these-businesses

When COVID-19 first came onto the scene we did not know where it was and where it wasn’t, so we had to act as if it was everywhere. Now, through testing, the virus can’t get as far before we are all aware of its spread in any community. Most importantly, Vermont is one of the safest places in the US and our health club’s risk factors greatly benefit from this.

We are well aware that our health club placed in another part of the country would create a very different risk assessment. By the same token, if there is a surge in cases in Vermont we will adjust our procedures accordingly.

Initially, health clubs were lumped together with other close proximity indoor venues. But our experience is that health clubs have their own unique qualities and deserve a more careful assessment.

Discussion Point #5

People traveling to the state of Vermont could cause a spike in cases.

VS&F Risk Management:  Yes, this is true and we agree that this may pose the greatest risk. So we made the decision on day one back from closure that we would not allow guests of any kind until we feel there is much less risk in doing so. Right now, every person working out in the club has a membership type. No guests can come into the club to work out, period.

As we move through the winter and watch the cases locally, we will decide when to open up the club to guests from this county and then Vermont residents.

In Summary

The virus and the risks associated with COVID-19 are very real so we can not become complacent. Depending on the individual, those risks may be present on their mind at all times or very little. Either way they are always on our mind and we will continue to study the data and reduce risk wherever we find it. 

One Comment to "Tackling COVID-19 at Health Clubs"

  • Jack Kennelly says:

    October 24, 2020 at 9:26 pm - Reply

    Thanks Dan. You and the staff are doing a great job in a tough time. Just keep reminding the members the virus is real and we shouldn’t get complacent.

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