Let me start by saying that I don’t have a dog in this fight. COVID has become a much politicized issue. I have no interest in the politics of COVID. As an individual, in my private life, I have my own beliefs and will make my own decisions based on my own risk assessments. But I come to you in service to our community because serving you is my role. Sometimes members jokingly call me “boss” and it always bothers me for while I may be “bossy” I do not see myself as the boss so much as a server. A business exists to serve its’ customers and can only exist if it continues to do this successfully. In this respect, you are my boss and I answer to your collective needs. Yes, as the owner I play the role of captain, making and executing the tough decisions but this is a role bestowed upon me by your trust and support which I must earn anew each and every day. As such here are my two driving priorities when it comes to any decision regarding COVID and Empower:
1) How do we keep you (and the rest of the community) safe?
2) How do we keep the gym open for your use?
The only way to train in 100% safety is via Zoom and we will keep this option open for all members. As far as the risks of training in the gym, Hawkeye shared this very informative article on COVID transmission risk modeling and analysis. I recommend you read it thoroughly. Based on this analysis I have to concur with Hawkeye’s assessment that “The only reason we haven’t had any transmissions at Empower yet is because no one in our community has had COVID yet.” Some of my key takeaways (and I welcome correction from our medical professionals if I have gotten any of this wrong):
1) Fomite transmission (transmission on surfaces, the reason we clean all our equipment) though thought possible, has not been proven as there are no documented cases to date of COVID transmission by this route.
2) The dangers posed by aerosols increases over time spent in a space so transmission while members move between stations is far less of a risk factor than transmission while members are exercising and breathing heavily in their own station. With aerosols, proximity is not the primary risk factor. In fact, the models suggest that mask wearing between stations will reduce risk far less than mask wearing during workouts. However, wearing a mask during exercise, as I’ve experienced firsthand, is a very uncomfortable experience that I do not recommend to anyone.
3) It certainly supports the notion that masking coaches will help reduce risk though my attempt at this yesterday proved unsuccessful as I struggled to be heard and to see as my glasses fogged up each time I shouted coaching instruction making it impossible to see if the athlete’s movements improved. I hated it but will certainly resign myself to wearing a mask if you feel this will serve you better.
4) Keeping the windows open for ventilation really does reduce transmission risk and should be continued despite the advance of winter temperatures. Brace yourself and dress accordingly!
Our primary goal is member safety and if it were our only goal, it would change which procedures we choose to put in place. But our secondary goal is to keep the gym open for you. We are blessed to have windows all around us and operate in a highly trafficked, highly visible location. This is a double-edged sword. Though you may now be aware of it, gyms in this city are subject to a great deal of scrutiny at the best of times (especially CrossFit gyms) and even pre-COVID we often receive threats and criticisms regarding our conduct or the conduct of our members. Each one of these poses a serious risk to our business, more so now than ever. With our business license renewal pending and with the uncertainty facing gyms in general it is not enough to do what is best for our members but also to be seen to be doing what other non-Empower members of the public believe is right (whether or not we agree with them) during the current climate of COVID concern.
With both these goals in mind here are the recommendations made by our medical professionals who are more qualified than I to speak about the risks of COVID transmission:
We will ask coaches to wear masks while coaching classes.
We will ask members to wear masks when entering/exiting the gym and while moving between stations.
We will not yet ask members to wear a mask while at your station or during the workout.
We will continue to ask you, as much as possible, to face away from other members during the workout (generally facing out toward the windows)
Please remember we are making these adjustments both for member safety and in the hopes of keeping the gym open. Again, our priorities are:
1) Member safety – hand washing, social distancing, windows open, facing away from one another during workouts and now coaches wearing masks.
2) Doing everything in our power to keep the gym doors open during the current COVID panic – cleaning equipment, spraying the gym between classes, and now wearing masks when travelling between stations.
As with any compromise, no one is 100% happy with the outcome. I recognize that for some of you these suggested measures will seem too extreme and others among you will feel that they are not enough. I recognize that this is an extremely divisive topic but let’s try to move forward in a spirit of mutual support united by the priorities which I believe we all share: health and fitness and keeping the gym open to serve you!
I cannot speak to the challenges that you have personally had to overcome this year but I can tell you that the Empower coaching team, the business and my family have been emotionally and financially bruised, beaten and battered over the course of the past 7 months with little hope for reprieve in the immediate future. None of our decisions have been made lightly and the challenges presenting themselves week after week do not seem to get any easier. No one enjoys being the bearer of bad tidings, it weighs heavily upon us every waking hour of every day. There are no easy or perfect solutions but as ever we continue to muddle through it the best we can. Remember, we’re all in this together! Thank you as ever for your staunch support during challenging times. We will continue to update procedures and protocols as circumstances evolve. And thanks to Xzibit for helping me get through some tough hours.
Friday 5K Run or Make Up Day
Waitlisted? No worries! The 5K option is available along with another fun overflow WOD option! Come one, come all:)