Phase Response to COVID-19

One of the benefits of the stay-at-home order and the social distancing protocols is the ability to maybe gain some perspective. We can see better, perhaps, what is important and what might be something that we can let go of. All of us have the ability to make those decisions for ourselves and to gain a perspective and a different vantage point of challenges that we have been experiencing. 

When the news cycle was still pointed mostly at the Wuhan province I started to think about what we at Verdant CrossFit and Verdant CrossFit North would need to do should the novel virus come to Idaho. A few weeks later we were forced to shut down and I had a four phase plan that had come and gone very quickly. We chose to stay open for as long as we could . We had students that wanted to be in the gym and I have employees that I wanted to pay. I am positive that we had at least two cases of COVID come through our gym in early January. We didn’t know what it was at the time, of course. 

I wanted to outline the specifics of my four phase plan that I came up with and also outline the phases of reopening that I am trying to anticipate. It may help our students or other gyms in a similar situation. Before outlining all of that I’d like to make it clear that I am aware that many people want to be back at the gym. I see posts every day from people wishing to be here with their friends and I get emails of encouragement every day. And I really appreciate all of the positivity. We had to pivot our gyms from having 20+ classes a day between our locations to having 5-7 classes a day over Zoom. We loaned out all of our equipment except for barbells/rowers/bikes. I think it is important to keep ahold of that perspective that we have gained; things are not going to go back to normal. It’s going to take a little while before we can operate as normal. My guess is that Verdant CrossFit North will be back to normal operation before Verdant CrossFit is. 

Our first phase of the novel virus was to clean and disinfect every piece of equipment that was used each class. We changed the warm ups and the workouts to make sure that we used the smallest amount of equipment possible. When people came into the gym they had to sanitize either in the bathroom or with one of the hand sanitizing stations we had put out. This phase lasted a few days and we had a huge amount of positivity and buy-in from our members. Everyone cleaned everything and went out of their way to make sure they sanitized when they walked in and when they left. 

Our second phase lasted about 12 hours. The idea was that we would limit class sizes to under 10 people and tape out specific areas where people would workout and we would rotate those areas each class to make sure that people in the following classes weren’t sitting in someone else’s sweat puddle. The state shut us down after our 915AM class so we only had a few classes where we were actually implementing this. 

Our third phase is where we are currently. I wasn’t sure how many classes we could run or if we would have interest in Zoom classes. The idea was to start with 3 classes and build if we found there was interest. We did 3 Zoom classes for 3 days, added 2 Saturday classes, and then went to 5 classes. Now we run 7 Zoom classes Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and 5 Zoom classes Tuesday and Thursday. On Saturdays we have 2 Zoom classes, one class for people with a ton of equipment and one for people with the plates, dumbbells, and kettlebells that we gave out. Sunday we are running our normal 9:30AM gymnastics class. 

Our members are smart, successful people and they are aware of the imminent dangers associated with opening full bore too quickly. Obviously the itch to get back into the gym and use a barbell is growing for many of them. We have put up many different lifting plans on our website in order to help people with limited resources and our workouts of the day have been infinitely scaleable to account for any lack of equipment.

Phase 4 was a worst case scenario and hasn’t happened yet and based on what we are seeing probably will never happen. If martial law was imposed the coaches would run the classes from their houses instead of coming into the gym to run classes. If everyone was forced to stay inside and not leave for any reason we would tweak our existing workout plans to satisfy the restrictions. 

As we look to potentially reopen at the end of April or mid-May, there are some facts that can’t be ignored. The major concern is that we could become a hotspot of infection. We will wait to hear from our governor and the federal government, but I expect there will be distancing guidelines and even the necessity of masks. When we go to reopen we will follow the CDC guidelines and any others that may be required. 

Right now our goal and expectation is that we will be running a hybrid schedule. Any classes that we run at the gym will be run over Zoom as well. It’s hard to predict how that will work EXACTLY, but we’ll probably set up an iPad that can see the live class and the coach. More than likely there will be a progressive roll out of the number of people allowed in small gyms. Probably no more than 9 people per class. Additionally, our gym hours are going to be cut from 5 CrossFit Lite classes and 10 CrossFit classes a day to something less than that. We will need to space classes out with a 30 minute window between consecutive classes to ensure cleaning and to keep classes from having too much contact with each other. 

Right now the mixed messaging and the poor leadership from the federal government coupled with the indecisiveness from our state leadership leads me to believe we may be somewhat on our own in determining the correct course of action. The local government seems to have no plan to communicate anything specifically to small businesses and they have not communicated anything concrete to help us understand what the course of action will be.

***EDIT***

Idaho HAS provided this (actually) very helpful resource: https://rebound.idaho.gov/stages-of-reopening/ for reopening. This was added after I wrote this article, but I am including it now as it is actually very helpful. BASICALLY, gyms reopen on May 16th and must observe the following:

All Stages – individuals should continue to:

  • Engage in physical distancing of at least six feet
  • Wear face coverings in public places
  • Stay home if sick
  • Practice good hand hygiene
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Disinfect surfaces and objects regularly

All Stages – employers should continue to:

  • Maintain the six-foot physical distancing requirements for employees and patrons
  • Provide adequate sanitation and personal hygiene for employees, vendors, and patrons
  • Ensure frequent disinfection of the businesses (on the website this is misspelled) as well as regular cleaning, especially of high-touch surfaces
  • Identify how personal use items such as masks, face coverings, and gloves may be required by employees, vendors, and/or patrons
  • Provide services while limiting close interactions with patrons
  • Restrict non-essential business travel
  • Identify strategies for addressing ill employees, which should include requiring COVID-19 positive employees to stay at home while infectious, and may include keeping employees who were directly exposed to the COVID-19 positive employee away from the workplace, and the closure of the business until the location can be properly disinfected
  • On a case-by-case basis, include other practices appropriate for specific types of businesses, such as screening of employees for illness and exposures upon work entry, requiring non-cash transactions, etc.”