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Recap: Navigating the Pandemic Part 3 — Community Rec COVID-19 Roundtable


On May 21, Community Rec Magazine presented a virtual roundtable addressing the COVID-19 crisis, how organizations can prepare for reopening and how the industry will be affected moving forward.

The panelists were Chris Tointon, the president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Omaha; Jennifer Harrington, the assistant executive director at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center in Portland, Oregon; and Paul Lurie, the chief operating officer at the JCC of Greater Baltimore. Due to an emergency prior to the roundtable, Michael Kerrigan, the general manager of the Cornerstone Aquatics Center in West Hartford, Connecticut, was unable to join.

The following is a summary of the top takeaways from the roundtable, including best reopening practices and more.


  • Factors to consider during the reopening period, and to prepare for when planning to reopen, include: 
    • Cleaning and sanitization practices.
    • Training staff.
    • What spaces can be used, how many members are allowed in the facility, new check-in procedures (including temperature checks for staff and members) where equipment should be placed and how it should be oriented.
  • Some facilities will be limited to outdoor fitness activities only during the first phase of opening.
  • One benefit of the pandemic for some facilities has been the opportunity to make drastic changes while members haven’t been present.
  • It’s critical to have a protocol in place for a situation in which a member or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, as well as a system for communicating an incident to members.
  • Most organizations are not requiring members to wear masks, but encouraging them to do so. Staff members are being required to wear masks.

Reengaging Members

  • Continuous communication throughout the pandemic has been critical — the better members have been connected virtually, the more likely they are to reengage in-person.
  • Communicating and demonstrating what your facility’s processes will look like will be very important for members coming back to your programs.
  • Unfortunately, there will be people who aren’t ready to come back — let those members know it’s alright to not be ready, and continue to offer virtual resources that will benefit them.

Pre-Coronavirus Versus Post-Coronavirus Marketing

  • The language will be different after the pandemic — what is important to members now, such as cleanliness and safety, is different than what was important two months ago.
  • With members craving information, open rates and views are higher than ever now, so it’s important to deliver the resources and information they need without worrying about whether it’s getting received.
  • A viable long-term marketing strategy is focusing on opening well, and showing members your commitment to safety, cleanliness and social distancing guidelines.

Safety and Cleanliness

  • There’s perception and reality in cleanliness, and facilities have to do both well. Organizations need to actually clean well, and properly convey to members that they are doing so.
  • Cleaning is everyone’s responsibility — encourage that with members.
  • Staff training (online and in-person) on cleanliness and member traffic flow is going to be critical.
  • Train and encourage staff members to communicate quickly if they suspect they have COVID-19, in order for the facility to enact its protocol in time to contain the spread of the virus.
  • It’s important not to lose the community aspect of who you are — make sure you don’t become a facility where the staff is always cleaning and not interacting with members.

Social Distancing

  • In order to maintain proper social distancing, organizations can consider using scheduling software to track how many members are in the facility, as well as determine when people can be in certain parts of their facilities at certain times.
  • Use the phrase “physical distancing” instead of social distancing. As social organizations, community rec centers want members interacting with each other, as long as they’re staying six feet apart while doing it.
  • Areas for pickup games, like basketball and racquetball courts, aren’t open yet, due to the difficulty of keeping people away from each other in those settings.

Front Desk

  • Install plastic or glass shields that go around the front desk to keep staff members protected.
  • Pushing a table against the front desk from the member side is another way to maintain good social distancing.
  • Take as many touches out of transactions at the front desk as possible.


To access the on-demand version of this webinar, click here.

Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former editor of Community Rec Magazine.

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