This past week, on Wednesday, we were informed that we had a confirmed case of COVID-19.
We figured it was only a matter of time before this happened. Given the rising number of cases in Virginia and elsewhere in the nation, the odds of a confirmed case in the community were probably non-zero.
Still, we hoped we wouldn’t get to this point and, in the moment of finding out about the infection, we couldn’t help but feel a pang of anxiety about the situation. Ultimately, as stewards of a community, we want to make sure people are as safe as possible and that we limit the exposure as quickly as possible.
Keep in mind that we already implement a fair number of COVID-19 precautions at our gym including:
- Class caps
- Time buffer between classes for equipment cleaning
- Physical distancing in 8×10′ spaces, with an additional 2 ft of space between spaces. We effectively keep folks at 10 ft from one another.
- The equipment is laid out in a way to keep people flow at a minimum. All workouts are programmed such that everyone virtually stays stationary in their assigned space the entire time.
- Ventilation through fans and garage doors
- Air purification through commercial grade systems
- PPE for staff, and masks required for entry and exit for members
But we also were aware that no protection method is fully guaranteed in a group setting. Prevention can only be one part of the equation, reacting to the event is the important piece.
This is how we did it:
Communicating with Members
The first thing we did was to inform our members of the positive case and about class cancellation for the following day, at a minimum, while we gathered more information about the situation.
We did this within at most an hour of finding out about the case, on Wednesday night. We used our software system’s SMS capability to let our members know and to ask them to stay tuned for more updates.
The second thing we did was to conduct contact tracing. The CDC defines an exposure as being in close contact (within 6 ft for 15 minutes or longer) with someone who has COVID-19 in the period from 2 days before the start of that person’s symptoms.
We actually collected information on the infected person’s attendance all the way back to 7 days prior to the positive test. Just as a precaution. We ended up building a list of all “exposed” classes with the names and contact information of all the attendees in them.
Gym Shutdown for 1 Week
Given the variety of classes the infected person attended and the possible exposure to several of our coaching staff, we determined the safest course of action was to shut down the gym for a week.
Late in the evening on Wednesday, we informed all of our members by email that we were shutting the gym down for week. We also told them that we’d be reaching out to them to let them know if they were exposed. Finally, we gave everyone an additional two weeks of holds on their accounts (which are typically limited).
That same night, we made available to all of our members a new at-home workout track in our app and let them know they had access to it for the duration of the shutdown (this at-home options is typically paid).
These workouts were prepared ahead of time. Our original intention was to provide them as a paid option for folks who are traveling or pausing their membership due to COVID concerns. We ended up flipping the switch and making them available to the entire community for this instance.
Contact Tracing Communication
For every class attended by our confirmed COVID person, we sent a mass email to the participants letting them know they were potentially exposed. We did that by Thursday midday.
This means they were required to pause their membership for 14 days, or produce a negative COVID test result. Many of them simply got the latter done within a matter of 2-3 days and sent us copies of their results by email. We love our members! They were amazingly supportive and cooperative throughout the process.
This one is a gimme. All of our coaches who were in the building over the 1 week prior to the confirmed case were required to get tested.
Over the following weekend, we conducted a deep and thorough disinfection cleaning of the entire facility.
A week later, we were back open and running. We did confirm one additional case that was in a shared class with the original infected person. This affirmed to us that we had made the right decision by shutting down for a week and being as transparent as possible. Both people are now fully recovered and healthy!
Several of our community members had awesome things to say about our response to the confirmed case:
“Thank you so much for your prompt (and very impressive!) response to this. As you know, as a healthcare provider I do not take this lightly and am so thankful you and your team are being very transparent.”
“I cannot thank you enough for your sense of responsibility in this crazy time. [..] Thank you very much for your transparency and thoughtfulness.”
“Very well executed”
As we head into the cold months, we will be adding more precautions to our list, including stricter class caps and mask requirements, as well as temperature checks.
We will be trying our best to continue ventilating the space we have. That means keeping bay doors at least partly open and fans spinning, weather permitting. We’ll be leveraging a CO2 meter to keep an eye on air turnover in the facility.
We know it won’t be easy and we know no one is out of the woods yet, as we’re heading into the cold season. But we feel confident about the processes we have in place to safeguard the health of our community. We also feel incredibly lucky to have members that are understanding, supportive and dedicated. CrossFit gyms are truly fortunate in this regard.
We are sharing our story in the hope that it helps other gym and small business owners out there. It never hurts to be better informed and better prepared. Ultimately, dealing with a crisis is fundamentally no different than dealing with normal day-to-day operations: we simply do what’s best for our members.