If you’ve been on Twitter, your Google news feed or anywhere on the internet, you’ve heard about COVID-19 — or as it’s more commonly known: the coronavirus. After surfacing in China in 2019, several cases have been identified in the U.S. over the past few weeks.
As a result, organizations across the country who see heavy foot traffic, such as community rec centers, have had to prioritize extra precautions to keep their facilities clean and their members healthy.
Fortunately, despite the unique nature of the coronavirus, the steps a community rec facility can take to mitigate spreading the disease are similar to those you would use during flu season.
“Luckily for us, we already have many policies and procedures in place to keep the buildings clean and sanitary,” said Trevor Williams, the chief operating officer of the South Shore YMCA in Hanover, Massachusetts. “And as it relates to the virus, we were already in flu season mode and many of the measures to control the spread of the flu are the same.”
The YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties, with 13 locations in the Tacoma, Washington area, has had a similar experience in prepping for the coronavirus.
“Our cleaning procedures were already robust before the coronavirus outbreak — it was simply a matter of scaling up our existing efforts to respond to the situation,” said Jonny Eberle, the communications director at the Pierce and Kitsap Counties Y. “We want our members to feel safe coming to the Y and know we’re doing everything we can to prevent the spread of illness.”
A good way to put members’ minds at ease is to stress the importance of preventative cleanliness measures. Working closely with their Board of Health and getting information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the South Shore Y has several health guidelines they’re implementing in their facilities:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, and then dispose of the tissue.
- Frequently disinfect touched objects and surfaces.
- Stay home if you are sick, and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
The Pierce and Kitsap Counties Y has also found the CDC and local health organizations to be valuable resources for identifying the right course of action and putting the right guidelines in place.
“Following recommendations from the CDC, as well as our state and local health departments, we’ve increased our cleaning of frequently touched surfaces in our facilities, including doorknobs, equipment, phones and handrails,” said Eberle.
According to Williams, the best way to plan for preventing the spread of the coronavirus is to use the resources at your disposal and stay informed. “We do not pretend to be experts,” he said. “We are following the advice of the CDC and local health departments, and we are updating members on the steps we’re taking to keep them and our staff safe and healthy.”
While a unique situation like the spread of the coronavirus can seem scary, the measures detailed above — as well as many others you can take — will go a long way in preventing the spread of illness, helping members feel safer and keeping your facility prepared.
“When something like this happens, there’s very little time to respond,” said Eberle. “The best we can do is be prepared for a wide range of possible scenarios. Having a detailed, adaptable plan ready to go can help you drastically cut down the time it takes to go from gathering information to taking action.”