This weekend, I got an email from my local gym that as part of a phase 1 reopening, the facility would be open to patrons come this Wednesday. I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I have very mixed feelings about this. As states and communities around the U.S. start these slow phased plans to lift social distancing restrictions – that is the question on my mind. Do I go and get in the water, or do I continue to stay home?
The short answer is that I’m leaning toward staying home, for a number of reasons. But before I get to that, some thoughts on what opening would actually mean…
Last week, this very subject came up on a group text of friends, two of whom are physicians. One of my friends serves on the board at her local YMCA (different city/state than me), and was asked, in her role as a board member and as a medical professional, to walk the facility and give her opinion about what should be done to maximize social distancing and ensure proper sanitation of spaces. So, she did. With her permission, I’m sharing her initial thoughts:
- What a nightmare.
- SO many surfaces that have to be sanitized after each member contact.
- So many soft surfaces.
- The pool?
- The showers?
- The infant changing tables?
- The Kid Zone?
- The Kid Zone workers picking up multiple babies in a shift?
- The senior citizen classes?
- The vending machines?
- Pre-screening and temperatures for everyone walking in?
In addition to this list, the Y leadership was talking about purchasing fancy HVAC UV filters for the facility ($$$$), & electromagnetic sterilizer sprayers for soft surfaces ($$$$), when in the end each room/class/zone/yoga studio will only be able to accommodate about 10% of the normal capacity with 2-3X the number of workers needed to properly sanitize between members. It did not seem to my friend (nor to me) to make much fiscal sense.
I can tell you that after getting the email about what restrictions and limitations will be put in place upon re-opening, my friends concerns were not far off. In practice, this is what my gym will look like on day 1:
- Normal operating hours
- Limit occupancy to 25%
- Limit workouts to 45 min
- Adjust equipment layout or close/restrict access to equipment as necessary to maintain at least six feet of separation between users
- Require customers to clean equipment with disinfecting wipes before and after use (how will they enforce this? Lysol wipe police?)
- Conduct regular and thorough cleaning of all equipment, surfaces and areas of the facility using disinfectant cleaning supplies
- Provide hand sanitizing stations for use upon customer entry and exit
- Employees must wear face masks
- Some studios are closed or temporarily moved to larger spaces such as the gym
- Reservation required for access
- No showers, saunas, or locker use (but locker rooms are open for changing and using the bathroom)
- No basketball or racquetball
- No hot tub (don’t like going in that thing even when there’s no pandemic)
- No community spaces like cafe, lounge, or coffee area
- No cash
- No mats in any workout areas
- No guest passes allowed
- No swim lessons or swim team
- No camps, birthday parties or other rentals
- Childcare will be accepted but only for ages 3 o 11, and a reservation will be required (no longer than 45 min). No personal belongings allowed. No parents allowed in the child care area. No diapering.
Phew! That’s a lot of restrictions you say? Indeed. Making me wonder of course, why bother? I know why bother, because we have to re-open sometime. But personally, I just don’t know if I feel ready to put myself and my kids at risk.
Thinking about these restrictions, I did a little mock run through in my head. Let’s say the pool is open on day one. Let’s say I make a reservation for my kids and I to go for 45 min, from 2-2:45. First question – do I arrive 5 min early so that I can start my “session” right at 2? Or does 2-2:45 include the time I wait in line to be screened at the door? Do I have to reserve a specific lane to swim in? Will all the lanes be open or will every other lane be open? Are the employees doing the screening wearing gloves? Are they cleaning the thermometers before and after (assuming yes)? Is taking my temperature really a good indication if I’m infected or posing a risk to other patrons, as some patients are asymptomatic or take 2-3 weeks to start showing symptoms? Are time blocks actually all 1 hour and the extra 15 min being used for the previous members to exit and the workers to sanitize? What exactly can even be sanitized on the pool deck? Will there be one way traffic around the lanes to ensure you don’t pass another member?
And with that, I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
In the end, I think this is going to come down to a personal choice. How much risk are you willing to take? Would I love to get back in and swim for 45 min a day? Absolutely. Would I love for my kids on the swim team to be able to get back in the water? More than I want it for myself. But for me, I want to wait it out a bit longer. Personally, I am on my own through this pandemic – because of the nature of my husband’s job (military), I’m single-momming right now in a city with no family within an 8 hour drive. I just can’t afford to get sick.
So for now, I think, I’ll continue to swim in my neighbor’s backyard pool once in a while and unfortunately… #justkeeprunning. I am used to home workouts anyway (I usually do strength workouts 3 times a week from home), so for now, that’s what works for me.
What are your thoughts? Do you think it’s ok to go back? Does the reward outweigh the risk? It’s ok to say yes, judgement free zone here, you be you. Just whatever you decide, do your best to keep yourself and everyone around you safe and healthy.
Oh and… May the 4th be with you… (couldn’t resist!)
Great post Rach. I know it’s overstating what’s been said so many times already but this scenario is so unprecedented that we really are making up the rules as we go. There are so few playbooks to reference. All we can do is pick a jumping-in point and start but KNOW that it’s going to get messy and it won’t be perfect and that one question will equal one answer will equal five more questions will equal no more answers. It’s exactly the time when we need more collective thinking and brainstorming and productive conversations rather than arguing and debating and poking and prodding.
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