Coronavirus: What we’re doing to protect people
We always want to do business with a clean conscience. The best way to achieve that is by adopting consumer-friendly practices. That certainly means following local, state, and national guidelines for gyms as they operate during this pandemic. We are going to discuss the other things that we do to make this a place that protects people from coronavirus and all harmful microorganisms.
Relentlessly cleaning away coronavirus, cold and flu viruses, and everything else
Years ago we paid a janitorial consultant who wrote an 85-page report about how to keep our facility clean. It described a set of guidelines known as the “5 Levels of Cleaning.” The levels range from Level 1—“Orderly Spotlessness”—down to Level 5—“Unkempt Neglect.” Those guidelines were originally adopted by higher-education facilities in 1992 and are now followed by serious cleaning and maintenance managers of schools, museums, and public buildings.
We have maintained the Level 1 standard from the first day we opened, 10 years ago. Here’s the description for Level 1: “Level 1 establishes cleaning at the highest level. It was developed for the corporate suite, the donated building or the historical focal point. This is show-quality cleaning for the prime facility.”
That perfectly describes us.
We have a GymValet on virtually every piece of equipment and over 45 spray bottles and microfiber cloths throughout the facility. Each GymValet holds a spray bottle and microfiber.
Spray bottles may be filled with HDQ Neutral, which is a hospital disinfectant and detergent that destroys human Coronavirus. They may also be filled with Oxivir Tb, which is a disinfectant that is especially good for electronics. Other bottles may be filled with SD-20, which dissolves the fat envelope around coronavirus and helps disassemble the virus, thereby making it inactive.
Microfiber is the professional-preferred cleaning cloth and it doesn’t release what it cleans (until it’s laundered).
Every member has the right-at-hand convenience of a bottle and microfiber to clean before and after using the equipment. We also have best-in-class washing and drying machines that are solely here for us to continuously wash and dry the microfiber from the machines.
There are two hand-sanitizing stations on the workout floor. We have a total of four plumbed sinks to be used for handwashing.
Any day that we’re open for business, a company cleans all floors, removes dust and dirt from all other surfaces, makes every bathroom gleam, empties all trash, and cleans all of the aerobic and strength machines.
But now we have to do more
The human coronavirus pandemic means that the Training Station’s staff has to think and act like commercial contract cleaners while continuing to give members everything they need to train their way.
Contract cleaners use the term ‘clean’ in a quantitative way. Their definitions vary. Our gym has adopted this definition: when 30 or fewer microbes are present, when measured using an ATP meter, a surface is clean. Up to 30 is considered ‘food safe.’ We really want 0 microbes present after cleaning and disinfecting but will accept the ‘food safe’ level as a minimum standard. Contract cleaners call that ‘deep cleaning.’
Contagious people spread the virus through droplets produced by sneezing, coughing, spitting, and talking. The droplets are heavy enough that gravity pulls them down to surfaces below. People touch those surfaces–especially in gyms–and then touch their faces and from there the virus can enter through the eyes, mouth, and nose.
Our mission is to completely remove the viruses on the surfaces of cardio equipment and strength equipment, each door, each locker, each bathroom, each shower room, and each changing room. Every day that we open.
That includes deep cleaning seventy-eight dumbbells and twenty kettlebells, fifteen barbells, eight tubes, ten bands, three physio balls, seven medicine balls, eighteen spring clips, one sled, one set of monkey bars, two rings, one TRX, ten foam rollers and balls, fifteen mats, ten yoga blocks, one Bosu ball, twenty-four lockers, dozens of miscellaneous accessories, and one-hundred ninety weight plates.
It’s a scientific plan. We timed how long it takes to scrub everything. We filmed as we cleaned so that we can learn how to clean more thoroughly. We recorded and analyzed the data.
Then we shared the data with the training manager at Penn Valley Chemical, an industry-leading janitorial and cleaning supply company that also offers state of the art training. He gave our plan the “Gold Standard of Cleaning in Relation to COVID-19.” He is a CMI Certified Professional Trainer, ISSA Certification Expert, and helps companies earn CIMS and CIMS-Green Building utilizing LEED: EB O&M green-cleaning criteria.
A breath of fresh air
The World Health Organization (WHO), believes that COVID-19 is predominantly spread from person-to-person. But, together with the scientific community, the WHO has been actively discussing and evaluating whether COVID-19 may spread through airborne aerosols, particularly in indoor settings with poor ventilation. We have taken precautionary steps to give our members a continuous supply of purified outside-air.
First, our ventilation system includes a unit that is dedicated to drawing in outside air. The unit runs non-stop. The drawn-in, outside-air repeatedly replaces all of the inside-air, all day and night.
Second, the air is purified. A licensed HVAC technician has installed award-winning, in-duct air purifiers that kill up to 99% of bacteria, mold, and viruses. An independent testing laboratory found that the air purifiers kill up to 99.9% of SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19. In addition, the charged plasma that it produces induces particles to coagulate, which makes them bigger and easier for air filters to catch.
Third, the purified air is filtered. Different air filters have different ratings. There are a couple of different rating systems but what they have in common is that they assign a number to each filter and the bigger the number, the more efficient it is at filtering air particles from the air passing through the filter.
We use filters with a Filter Performance Rating of 10 or higher (also called ‘FPR 10’), which is the highest rating for that particular rating system. FPR 10 will filter out bacteria and particles that can carry viruses. For those more familiar with the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating system, our filters are equivalent to MERV 13.
Our ventilation system filters all of the inside-air every nine minutes.
Members are helping in the fight
We are fortunate to have conscientious members. They wear masks at the gym. Our staff is always checking masks and strictly enforcing their proper placement over the nose and mouth. (We can provide perhaps the best mask for exercise, for those who have trouble breathing with masks.)
We regularly see members using the spray bottles and microfiber, and using the hand sanitizer.
To encourage them, we have placed four handwashing sinks on the workout floor. Entering the gym members are required to wash their hands with soap and water for 20 or more seconds as we time them. They are also required to put their belongings in a special drop-off area. We clean and disinfect the items and then put them in a pick-up area.
Coronavirus loves crowds, we don’t
We now require members to schedule their workout times. It’s a simple process that they can finish in seconds via our website.
Each member is limited to one workout per day, one hour per day. A workout begins at the top of an hour. All the people signed up for that hour come in at the top of the hour, have hands and belongings cleaned and disinfected, and then leave an hour later. Then the next group comes in for an hour, and so forth.
Each hour is treated like a cohort. Let’s use as an example the folks that come in at 9 am. No one from the 8 am cohort can stay for the 9 am hour, and no one from the 10 am hour can come early to the 9 am hour. We keep cohorts separate throughout the entire day. And we limit the cohorts to 15 people or less. During any given hour there are usually just 5-8 people.
We have always been against a crowded gym and have always limited our membership. We stood ready to use a waitlist when necessary. There were typically between two and fifteen members here at any one time. The scheduling system will help guarantee that we always stay within that range.
Some of our standing practices also help you keep a distance from others in the gym:
–About 70% of our equipment is already spaced 6’ or more. For the rest, members now use cones to block access to the machine to their right and left.
–We don’t have classes because our spaces are not big enough to give adequate square footage per exerciser. Also, we don’t use locker rooms. Instead, we have a series of private bathrooms, shower rooms, and changing rooms. Only one person at a time can use any of those rooms.
The decisions that we’re making now–regarding the limit on occupancy, the reduced hours of operation, and the reserved workout times–are not permanent. As Philly sees a drop in the risk for community transmission and as we confirm that people are not getting infected at the gym, we will loosen those restrictions.
We always made a serious effort to provide a clean workout space. We are now doing even more. Our members are doing the things that they are supposed to do. Together we make the Training Station Gym one of the safest places to exercise for fitness and, these days more importantly, for health.