On March 11, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak a pandemic.
Universities and college campuses across the country are trying to figure out the best ways to respond. Rec centers are in a similar boat.
With that in mind, discussions between Alex Accetta, the executive director of Recreation and Wellness at Stanford University, and a couple of colleagues led to a Google Doc with shared information on what each of their rec centers was doing during this health emergency. But Accetta said they wanted to take it a step further. Thus, they sent it out to the entire NIRSA community and since then, it’s grown to nearly 30 pages and counting of notes on preventative measures, school and rec center closures, and how each campus is responding to COVID-19.
Accetta shared several of the steps they are taking at Stanford:
- Providing more cleaning stations.
- Modifying group exercise protocols.
- Paying staff for more hours so they can take time to clean after classes.
- Reminding personal trainers to ask questions prior to meeting with a client.
He also noted some advice from medical personnel on campus, which was to allow usage of bikes and treadmills in an every-other pattern. This would eliminate the close proximity of users.
Over at the University of Washington, Katie Beth, the associate director for Facilities and Operations, said their recreation facilities will continue to remain open for now, with a few extra measures in place. “At this time our department is cleaning based on our typical custodial schedules using the same EPA-registered disinfectant products, with a few exceptions: extra cleaning of high touch points during the day by the Operations staff — i.e. door knobs, railings, etc. — and extra daily cleaning of shared work spaces or customer counters,” said Beth.
In fact, it might be good to consider the benefits of keeping people moving, said Accetta. He explained exercising and moving have been linked to better mental and physical well-being. The benefit of staying open might outweigh that of closing. “We’ve got great feedback from a person on staff who said we’re really glad you stayed open because we really need this right now in this time of stress,” he shared.
One of the most helpful things for Washington Recreation has been the business continuity plan they have in place. “I find this has been a helpful tool to deal with extended closures, emergency management planning and communication,” she said. “I highly recommend Recreation departments take the time to develop this type of plan.”
In the end, Accetta said the most important thing rec centers can do during this COVID-19 outbreak is be in broad and frequent communication with their universities. “If we don’t communicate with all of our university stakeholders we can get sideways and then that’s what leads to chaos,” he said “It’s when people are getting different messages, when people don’t know who’s making decisions — there’s experts on everybody’s campus so lean in on them and tell them what you’re doing, don’t just try to make decisions in a vacuum — and the other one is to try and rely on the best science and rely on the experts.”
Want to collaborate with other campus rec professionals on responding to COVID-19? You can access the Google Doc here.
Want to simply view updates to the document? Here is a link where you can view the updates; it refreshes every five minutes.