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Area Fitness Centers and Gymnasiums Continue to Adapt to Pandemic



Staff Writer

WHEELING — As area fitness centers and gymnasiums continue to work within a variety of safety guidelines and precautions in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wheeling Hospital’s Howard Long Wellness Center and the J.B. Chambers Memorial YMCA are two facilities where safety protocols and efforts have provided members the confidence they need to return to the establishments, according to each facility’s director.

Howard Long Wellness Center Director Joe Slavik said the center has adapted to the pandemic in many ways since reopening last May.

“Initially when we closed back on March 17, 2020, we immediately began a two-week deep cleaning of the entire facility from floor to ceiling. We used hospital grade disinfectant everywhere,” Slavik said. “At the same time, we reached out to our loyal members and started providing group exercise classes on social media platforms to help them cope with the fact that the center was closed.”

Slavik said to prepare the center for its return to operations, the staff moved all the exercise equipment on the second floor at least 8 feet apart. The safe standard for social distancing is 6 feet.

“We added lane lines in the pool so we could provide more lines between those walking or swimming in the pool,” Slavik said. “We added several handwashing stations and equipment, disinfecting wipe stations throughout the center. Using different spaces in the center we provided 12 feet between those participating in our group exercise classes. We placed multiple information signs through the center to educate our members regarding the signs and symptoms COVID-19 and how to protect themselves and others.”

When asked about how the center tailored its business model to accommodate how people may behave moving forward, Slavik said upon reopening on May 18, there were quite few changes.

“Each person coming to the center has their body temperature checked and reviews the symptoms of COVID-19 before entering. We began a campaign to stop the spread of the virus by focusing on the four “W’s'” to combat COVID-19,” Slavik noted.

The four W’s include:

n Wear a mask.

n Wash your hands frequently.

n Wipe all contact points on equipment before and after each use.

n Watch your physical distant from other members (at least 6 feet apart at all times).

Slavik said every half hour the staff reminds center members about the four W’s with overhead public announcements. In addition, he said the staff, on the hour every hour, disinfects high-contact points such as rails, countertops, handles, etc.

“Not long after we reopened, through the support of the hospital, we were able to implement a new disinfecting technology called AirPhx, which runs 24/7 killing viruses and bacteria in the air and on surfaces. This provides another layer of effort to help combat the virus for our members and staff,” Slavik added.

Since reopening last year and moving forward, the Wellness Center continues to use social media platforms to promote what is going on in the cente. In addition, it also has been using the center’s member texting software to reach members about new services offered at the facility.

“Our biggest promoters have been our active members speaking to their friends about how safe they feel working out here. I cannot tell you how grateful we are that our members have recognized our efforts to give them confidence to keep coming back,” Slavik said.

J. B. Chambers YMCA Executive Director Adam Shinsky said when the Elm Grove facility reopened May 18 after being closed since March 17, the staff put a big emphasis on cleaning and disinfecting.

“We got a big stockpile of disinfectant wipes. We wipe the machines down before and after use. We have extra staff on hand to wipe things down,” Shinsky noted.

He said the Y has included additional staff in areas like its fitness center to assist with cleaning. He said while some staff members are assigned to assisting patrons with fitness center equipment, other employees work to clean idle machines. He said they regularly apply disinfecting sprays to different areas inside the facility as well.

“It seems probably in the last six weeks our crowd has kind of gotten back to pre-pandemic,” Shinsky said. “We’re getting there.”


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