Reopening During COVID-19: A Phased Plan to Minimize Risk

A lot remains unknown about the COVID-19 pandemic and how the virus spreads. This makes developing a safe reopening plan a significant challenge, especially for organizations that operate multiple types of programming in different physical environments. However, there are patterns and insights emerging that we can use to control the spread of the disease. These include:

  • The virus can be easily aerosolized, and can remain suspended in the air for significant periods of time—especially indoors
  • Rigorous activity or heavy respiration significantly increases the amount of virus particles that are aerosolized
  • Physical distance from an infected person helps reduce the number of virus particles another individual is exposed to, as does universal masking
  • Outdoor environments and good air circulation appear to significantly reduce both the stability and the quantity of aerosolized virus particles

These insights—combined with the knowledge that risk of infection is heavily dependent on both the number of virus particles you are exposed to, and the time you spend in proximity to virus particles—have informed the guidelines that follow, which we will be updating and adding to as we learn more about how the virus spreads. These guidelines revolve around a phased reopening which moves from programming of lower risk to those where it will be extremely challenging to control the spread of the virus. Those phases can be summarized as follows:

  • Stage 1—Child Care & Camp Programs: These are programs of critical societal importance, with lower risk individuals, where significant outdoor time is easier to ensure.
  • Stage 2—Outdoor Group Fitness: With so many people having been confined indoors, there is a real need for both communal activity and physical exercise. Outdoor group fitness allows for both, while prioritizing physical distancing and hygiene.
  • Stage 3—Aquatics (Outdoor & Indoor Pools): While locker rooms present a challenge, our current understanding suggests that—with modified protocols—pools are a relatively low risk environment.
  • Stage 4—Indoor Group Fitness: Indoor environments present significant risk in terms of reduced air flow, but with larger spaces like gym halls, opportunity for physical spacing, and options to prioritize activities that involve less rigorous respiration, safe operation may be achievable.
  • Stage 5—Individual Fitness: Because of their usually tight physical spacing, the number of high touch surfaces, and the heavy respiration involved, indoor physical fitness centers/gyms are likely the highest risk area of programming and should be considered last for reopening.

We are not and cannot be the final word on how and when you reopen. That’s your role and your responsibility. However, we ask that you are engaged with us every step of the way as you reopen your facilities.

Outline

  • General Reopening Guidelines
  • Stage 1: Child Care & Camp Programs
  • Stage 2: Outdoor Group Fitness
  • Stage 3: Aquatics (Outdoor & Indoor Pools)
  • Stage 4: Indoor Group Fitness
  • Stage 5: Individual Fitness

General Reopening Guidelines

General Preparation

Redwoods Recommendations

  1. Establish and maintain communication with local and state authorities to determine current mitigation levels in your community.
  2. Scale up operations only if you can ensure strict social distancing, proper cleaning and disinfecting requirements, and protection of your staff and participants. Please download our sample waiver.
  3. All program participants and volunteers should sign robust waivers that cover the risk of infection.
  4. Post numerous, visible warning signs specifically relating to COVID-19. They should be at the entrances of your facilities and in high-risk locations such as fitness centers, gyms, bathrooms and locker rooms. We have created a template for signage which you can use.
  5. Check State and local health department notices daily about transmission in the area and adjust operations accordingly.
  6. Be prepared to close for a few days if there is a case of COVID-19 within your organization, or for longer if cases increase in your local area.

Additional Helpful Resources

Sanitation & Cleanliness

Redwoods Recommendations

  1. Ensure you have adequate cleaning supplies that meet CDC’s disinfecting guidelines: (If unavailable, water and bleach mixtures or 70% isopropyl alcohol are also able to disinfect, per CDC.)
  2. Ensure staff responsible for cleaning have proper Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) (e.g. gloves, gown, etc.) and that they understand their cleaning expectations. Review CDC guidelines for cleaning staff PPE.
  3. Write down your cleaning protocols, and share them with your staff and members. Be sure to record and document these protocols. This may include regular cleaning, special program cleaning and how cleaning differs if a confirmed case is identified in your facility. Review CDC cleaning guidelines as you craft a plan.

Further Questions for Consideration

  • Availability of Cleaning Supplies for Public Use
    • Where will hand sanitizer/disinfecting wipes be available? (E.g. in high traffic spaces, in every room, etc.)
    • Will hand sanitizer be available in outdoor spaces?
    • Is an outdoor hand washing station necessary?
    • Will hand washing stations be accessible indoors?
  • Employee Cleaning Responsibility
    • What are staff expectations for cleaning? How will you train and ensure it is done properly?
    • Does each employee have a general responsibility or a designated cleaning area?
      • Do you need a backup if an employee is out?
    • Cleaning Frequency
      • What areas need to be cleaned after each use? (E.g. bathrooms, equipment, etc.)
      • What areas need to be cleaned regularly? (E.g. high touch surfaces, doorknobs, etc.)
      • Is a deep cleaning needed after the building is closed? Will this be contracted by a cleaning service or completed by staff?
    • Air Filtration
      • Do you have a safe way to transfer outdoor air indoors?
      • Can you provide additional air flow through fans, or opening windows?
      • How often are you cleaning your HVAC system?
      • Have you considered using UV light in your HVAC system?
      • How many times does the air turnover in one hour?
        • Call your local fire department to ask how many exchanges it takes to clear out a chemical in the air for your particular space, building, room, etc.
      • Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) Rating
        • What strength of filter do you need to filter out the particles in the air?
        • We recommend hiring an HVAC professional to determine the best solutions and service your units before you reopen.

Masks & Face Coverings

Redwoods Recommendations

  1. Require all staff to wear a cloth face covering, over their mouth and nose, per CDC guidelines.
  2. Require all members and participants to wear a face covering, over their mouth and nose. It may be challenging for children—especially younger children—to wear a mask in an all-day setting such as camp. The CDC recommends that they be worn as feasible, and that they are most essential when physical distancing is difficult.
  3. Encourage, but not require, members to wear face coverings when exercising. A cotton bandana is a good option during exercise.
  4. If a person is physically unable to remove the covering, has trouble breathing, is in the water, or is under three years old, do not require a face covering.
  5. Include face coverings in your COVID-19 written plan.

Further Questions for Consideration

  • Face Covering Communication
    • How will this message be communicated to staff and participants?
    • Is signage necessary to remind and reinforce?
  • Face Covering Supply
    • Will the organization provide face coverings, or ask employees to supply their own?
    • What type of face coverings will be used and acceptable to wear by staff (e.g. paper mask, cloth covering, N95, etc.)?
  • Face Covering for Staff
    • How often do face coverings need to be changed or cleaned?
    • Do staff have access to multiple face coverings?
    • Who is responsible for laundering the face coverings if they are cloth and reusable?
    • What if someone comes to work and forgets their mask? What are the implications if you send them home?
  • Face Covering for Members and Participants
    • What is the consequence if someone enters your facility without a face covering?
    • Who will monitor entry points to be sure all members are wearing a face covering?
    • How will a “difficult conversation” be handled if someone does not want to wear a face covering?

Physical Distancing

Redwoods Recommendations

  1. Limit your facility’s capacity based on current guidelines from your state and local jurisdictions, at minimum.
  2. Space equipment, mark floors with tape, and use other measure to ensure all members and participants maintain an acceptable distance from others throughout your facility.

Further Questions for Consideration

  • Facility Capacity
    • How will you keep track of the current capacity in your facility?
    • What happens if you reach capacity? How will you communicate that with members?
  • Distancing Communication
    • Will tape or stanchions be used to mark minimum of six-foot distance and flow of traffic throughout the facility—hallways, fitness, pool deck, locker rooms, etc.?
    • Will walkways be one way?
    • If equipment is unable to be moved, will it be marked as closed?
  • Distancing Narrow Areas and Contactless Entry
    • Is contactless entry possible for members to self-scan?
    • At member entry or scan area, could plexiglass dividers protect front-desk staff?
    • How will these plexiglass dividers be cleaned?
    • If participants are signing waivers, can this be completed digitally or will pen/paper be required?

HR Considerations

Redwoods Recommendations

  1. Follow your written protocols on screening new hires, if you are re-hiring staff. This is not necessary for furloughed employees.
  2. Re-communicate organization policies and code of conduct on staff return, and consider additional trainings to be completed upon return, including new operating procedures.
  3. Bring back the employees based on the program they work in. If you provide programs, then all of your fitness staff returns to work. Performance should never be considered when choosing which staff should return to work.
  4. Have each staff member complete a questionnaire at the beginning of their work day. Be sure to track and document the questionnaires. We have created a sample Return to Work Questionnaire for you to use.
  5. If a staff member is uncomfortable coming back to work and they do not have any qualifying conditions as it relates to FFCRA, be considerate and try to meet them where they are. Teach them about new protocols, provide 1:1 training on how everything will operate and look for ways to accommodate them. Try to support them the best that you can without giving up on them. This is a scary time for everyone.

Further Questions for Consideration

  • Tracking Illness
    • Will you screen employees daily upon arriving at the facility (e.g. temperature checks)?
    • How will this be documented and tracked?
  • Staff with Symptoms
    • Is there a designated quarantine space if someone presents symptoms while at work?
    • What will you do if a staff member experiences symptoms while at work?

As you work through each of the following 5 stages, all of the above guidance applies. We have included further considerations that are specific to each stage for you to think through.

Stage 1: Child Care & Camp

Redwoods Recommendations

  1. Include your local first responders and health department when planning your operations.
  2. Train all staff in new procedures, using remote learning as much as possible. Retrain staff on Child Sexual Abuse Prevention as they haven’t been working with youth in some time.
  3. Create a “camp within a camp” when breaking children into groups. Making smaller groups for the day will help with social distancing and exposure.
  4. Follow the CDC’s Guidelines for Youth and Summer Camps and Guidelines for Child Care.

Further Questions for Consideration

  • Operations
    • What do your current state and local jurisdictions mandate for child care and camp?
    • Do you have enough trained staff to safely operate and meet the required ratios?
    • Are staff aware of your EAP and ready to respond in an emergency?
    • How much programming can be done outside?
    • What activities can you incorporate that encourages physical distancing?
    • Are areas and activities appropriate to protect children from abuse—specifically one-on-one interactions?
  • Communication
    • How will you communicate the new rules with children of all ages?
    • How will you communicate expectations with parents/guardians about how your program will be run?

Stage 2: Outdoor Group Fitness

Redwoods Recommendations

  1. Ensure the space is safe—free from hazards.
  2. Ensure staff are trained on EAP and have access to emergency equipment.
  3. Mark spaces on the ground with chalk, cones, spray paint, etc. to give people an idea of proper distance that should be maintained.
  4. Require a sign-in sheet so you know who is in the class, and ensure you have a waiver and emergency contact information for each member. Set up a system to ensure each participant has a waiver and emergency contact on file. Signing electronically is the safest option.

Further Questions for Consideration

  • How can you encourage community as much as possible outdoors?
  • How will you have members sign the sign-in sheet? Will you provide a box of new pens?
  • Can you create a QR code that members can scan on their phone to sign the waivers, so that it’s a touchless process?

Stage 3: Aquatics

Redwoods Recommendations

  1. Lifeguard certification should be up-to-date. Extension periods within certifying bodies are valid.
  2. Implement skill refreshers and in-service training prior to opening the pool.
  3. Have proper PPE available to aquatics staff. Face coverings are required except when in water or performing rescue/emergency care.

Lap Swim

Redwoods Recommendations

  1. Limit swimmers to one per lane.
  2. Schedule lap swim sessions to allow for disinfection between sessions and to control user traffic to and from the pool.
  3. Limit access to the pool through the entry that allows for the most spacing.

Further Questions for Consideration

  • Control the Environment for Social Distancing
    • Will you use the locker room or other entry?
    • If not using locker rooms, do you need approval from your local health department to not provide showers?
    • Will you set up changing or staging areas on the deck, or require swimmers to arrive ready-to-go?
  • Limit the Number of Guests
    • Will you offer lap swim on a first-come, first-served basis, or will you require reservations?
    • Will you schedule a separate time for high-risk or senior swimmers?

Swim Team

Redwoods Recommendations

  1. As in lap swim, limit swimmers to one-per-lane.
  2. Coaches are to wear masks and remain distanced from swimmers.
  3. Swim practice only. At this time, swim meets are not recommended.

Further Questions for Consideration

  • Limit Capacity
    • If you are going to run a swim team, what is the capacity you can handle?
    • Will you need to practice in shifts, or have a smaller team?

Swim Lessons

Redwoods Recommendations

  1. Swim lessons are critical for drowning prevention and are encouraged provided they can be done safely.
  2. Use parents or family members in the water to provide contact whenever possible.
  3. Use equipment such as rescue tubes and kickboards to further promote distancing.
  4. No sharing of toys or equipment.

Further Questions for Consideration

  • Meeting your Mission
    • Which lessons or age groups are most critical for you to provide?
    • How do you engage parents and encourage them to participate while making them feel safe?
  • Disinfection
    • How do you disinfect any shared equipment between use?
    • Do you eliminate the use of shared toys such as dive rings and balls?

Stage 4: Indoor Group Fitness

Redwoods Recommendations

  1. Reduce capacity according to current regulations.
  2. Mark spaces on the floor to allow for proper distancing.
  3. Rotate equipment to allow time to sit in between uses after cleaning. Allow at least 5-10 minutes after cleaning before wiping down again.
  4. Sanitize all equipment between uses and do a deep cleaning at the end of each day.
  5. Require a sign-in sheet for each class so you know who is in the class, and ensure you have a waiver and emergency contact information for each member.

Further Questions for Consideration

  • How will you manage sign-ups and limit the capacity of the group?
  • Do you have enough cleaning supplies to operate safely?
  • Are there windows in the room that can be opened to aid in additional air flow?
  • Do you have fans that you can add in the room to aid in additional air flow?
  • Can you designate a marked off area on the fitness floor for members to place their used equipment, so staff can clean before making available again?

Stage 5: Individual Fitness

Redwoods Recommendations

  1. Space equipment according to physical distance requirements. This may require you to limit the use of every other machine, or more, if you’re unable to physically move the equipment.
  2. Limit facility usage based on current maximum group gathering sizes.

 Further Questions for Consideration

  • Equipment Cleaning
    • Can participants clean their own equipment (E.g. supply spray bottle/wipes to each participant and ask them to clean equipment after each use)? Use disinfecting products appropriate for the virus and machines to prevent damage.
    • How are spray bottles then disinfected?
    • Will staff clean equipment after member cleans equipment?
    • Is hand sanitizer or a hand washing station available for members to use after using equipment?
  • Equipment Spacing
    • Is equipment able to be spaced at least six feet apart?
    • If not, how will equipment be closed from use?
    • Will closed equipment be alternated daily to allow time to disinfect?
    • Can you install partitions between equipment? If you do, these would also need to be cleaned regularly.
  • Available Equipment to Use
    • Is there a “waiting area” for participants waiting to use equipment?
    • Can equipment be reserved in advance for various time slots?
    • Is there a designated cool down or stretching area, with physical distancing guidelines?
  • Towel Service
    • Are members able to bring their own towels? How would this be communicated?
  • Locker Rooms
    • Could locker rooms be opened in a lesser capacity (E.g. no sauna/steam room, no showers, limit the number of lockers and spacing of lockers)?