Recreational facilities adapt to COVID-19 regulations

Cary Street Gym is home to VCU RecSports. Photo by Jon Mirador

Ben Malakoff, Contributing Writer

Towels and disinfectant spray surround workout stations for users to wipe down every weight, bar and machine after finishing their sets. Tape on the ground outlines exercise areas, and room occupancy signs hang on the walls.

Anthony Muscatello, assistant director for external relations at VCU RecSports, said these safety protocols were established in March when the seriousness of the virus was beginning to be fully understood.

“Periodically, as the pandemic had continued, it was a lot of adjustment, a lot of re-tweaking when new state guidelines came out,” Muscatello said.

Before entering, members of the Cary Street Gym must confirm they are not feeling any COVID-19 symptoms before they can tap their card and proceed. Gone away is the old system of punching in codes at the front gates.

Members of VCU’s recreational facilities must make an online reservation with a 30-minute check-in window and are asked to keep their workouts shorter than 90 minutes. While using the facilities, masks must be worn at all times.  

Muscatello said VCU followed guidelines from the National Intramural and Recreational Sports Association, a governing body for safe practices in gyms, which he described as the “NCAA for recreation.”

RecSports also follows safety guidelines from the American Council on Exercise, Muscatello said. 

There is a capacity restriction of 450-600 people at Cary Street Gym, based on 10-foot physical distancing requirements and closed-off spaces, Muscatello said in an email.

Camila Herrera, a VCU student who goes to Cary Street Gym three to five times a week, said she likes the new safety precautions but thinks there is room for change.

“I think the safety policies are really good,” Herrera said. “I do think there can be more improvement in time management.”

James Monson, a VCU student who uses Cary Street Gym five to six times a week, said he believes the new safety policies do a “great job considering the circumstances.”

“I feel as a whole they are definitely helping,” Monson said. “Wearing a mask is very manageable. It’s only ever a problem for me when running. But I choose to run outside at this point.” 

Even with limited time slots, Both Herrera and Monson said they will keep using the gym on campus for the remainder of the semester.

While the restrictions may significantly decrease attendance in the facilities, Muscatello said reservations are still consistently maxing out. And with that, he said the crowds have followed the guidelines.

“We’ve had very few, you know, instances where we’ve had to remind people to wear masks,”  Muscatello said. “We’ve had people abiding by the capacity limits, by the space requirements. They’ve been diligent in their cleaning of equipment, which we’re very grateful for.”

Muscatello said VCU is developing ways to accommodate more people in the facilities, whether through walk-ins or additional reservation slots, but all of that will depend on state requirements and approval from the university’s Division of Student Affairs.

“We just have to take it day by day,” Muscatello said. “Ultimately our goal on campus is to contribute to the positive health and well being of the student community and it’s hard to do that when you have a pandemic happening.”

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