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Coronavirus: Prevention & Best Practices for Your Gym

The world has been experiencing a coronavirus pandemic since late 2019. This article provides basic information about the outbreak and how your club can help keep members and staff safe and informed.

The world has been experiencing a coronavirus pandemic since late 2019. This article provides basic information about the outbreak and how your club can help keep members and staff safe and informed.

What is Coronavirus?

Coronavirus is a common virus around the world. There are currently seven known strains of the virus that infect people, four of which typically cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory illness (similar to a common cold). More recent strains, Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) cause more severe illness.

The current outbreak is SARS-CoV2, which causes Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

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How Is Coronavirus Spread?

Coronavirus spreads person-to-person via respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or exhales. These droplets land on surfaces, and the disease is spread when a person touches an infected surface and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth.

Evidence suggests the virus can live on surfaces for up to 72 hours, depending on factors like the type of surface and temperature. The droplets can also be inhaled, which is why the World Health Organization recommends staying at least three feet (one meter) away from persons who are sick or coughing. This is similar to how influenza and common colds are spread.

Coronavirus has spread across the globe, and community transmission has been or is ongoing in a number of communities worldwide. Health authorities have restricted movement and closed non-essential businesses to combat the spread of the virus. As of this publishing, economies are in varying stages of reopening.

How Can You Prevent the Spread of Coronavirus?

There is currently no vaccine or treatment for COVID-19. Both the WHO and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend taking common precautions to prevent respiratory illness, including:

  • Regular hand washing with soap (for at least 20 seconds) or alcohol-based solution (at least 60% alcohol),
  • Covering coughing or sneezing with a tissue or elbow (not your hand),
  • Avoiding touching of eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands,
  • Limiting contact with people who are sick, and staying home if you are sick.

The CDC also recommends cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and wearing cloth face coverings when social distancing is difficult to maintain.

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Protecting Members and Staff

As clubs enter varying stages of reopening, most have implemented enhanced cleaning procedures and put in place social distancing measures for both members and staff. IHRSA put together a list of 18 Safety Considerations for Your Club Reopening Plan.

Clubs are also communicating with members on measures they can take to prevent illness. These include regular hand washing, wiping down equipment before and/or after use, covering coughs and sneezes, and avoiding touching eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

The CDC and WHO both recommend staying home if you have any symptoms to prevent the spread of illness. During the widespread stay-at-home orders and business closures, many clubs and studios have provided options for people to stay active while they are at home, such as providing programming for workouts you can do at home, offering personal training via video chat, or providing access to virtual classes.

Communicating About Coronavirus

The aim of your communications is both to inform and reassure.

It is important to strike the right tone—your communications should convey the appropriate level of concern about coronavirus, and clearly outline steps you are taking in terms of safety, health club services, membership contracts, and openings and closures.

IHRSA outlined several key things to communicate during a pandemic.

In order to make sure members see your communications, consider sharing them across the following mediums:

  • Email/e-newsletters,
  • Social media, including private member groups,
  • Website.

Communicate regularly with members as the coronavirus pandemic continues. This continues to be an ongoing and constantly evolving situation.

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What Should You Do If You Think You—or Someone at the Club—Was Exposed?

People who may have been exposed to COVID-19 and are experiencing flu-like symptoms—cough, fever, and shortness of breath—are encouraged to seek medical care immediately and avoid contact with others. In 90% of cases, early symptoms include a fever, and in 70% of cases a dry cough. See more recommendations from the CDC.

If a club member has been exposed to coronavirus, in most cases health authorities will trace that person’s contacts, and monitor or test anyone who may have been exposed. Health authorities will advise you on any precautions you—or your club—would need to take in that instance.

For information on health club openings and closures by country, visit this IHRSA resource.

For more information on coronavirus, visit the CDC or WHO.

For more information and resources on flu prevention for businesses, check out these CDC pages or the CDC Business Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist.

See the CDC’s Interim Guidelines for Employers and Businesses to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 for more information.

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Author avatar

Alexandra Black Larcom @ihrsagetactive

Alexandra Black Larcom, MPH, RD, LDN, is the Senior Manager of Health Promotion & Health Policy for IHRSA. She spends her days working on resources and projects that help IHRSA clubs offer effective health programs in their communities, and convincing lawmakers that policies promoting exercise are an excellent idea. Outside the office you'll most likely find Alex at the gym, running on the Charles River, or, in the fall, by a TV cheering on the Florida Gators.