Reopening: Fitness Facilities, Pool & Spa, and BBQs: "I can't do that, Gym"
Superintendent Jason Lockton here, and I wanted to give an update on where we stand with the amenities and what we have been doing to prepare for their opening. One common theme you will see in this is that we are simply trying to figure out the best procedure in which we can keep residents safe. Due to their shared nature, all of the amenities pose a risk that must be managed and lowered as much as possible. The best way I can explain what it is that we have done is to break it down by area.
How about the gym?
Well, as per government recommendations, we have made minor alterations to the setup of the gym’s equipment:
(1) Moving stations so that users will stay 6 feet apart or more in cases of cardiovascular machines, such as treadmills and elliptical machines.
(2) Marking the gym floor with highly visible tape so that it is easier to judge your own physical distancing.
(3) Posting additional signage and making sure that any machines that cannot be made safe are obviously marked.
Why we have taken longer to open these areas are because many of Ontario's guidelines for recreational facilities included items such as "Installation of non-permeable barriers between machines and equipment (covering the entire space between the machines or equipment)". We would gladly do this but the price and rarity of materials have shot up during this pandemic. A simple polycarbonate sheet used to be something that we could obtain easily from Home Depot and I could cut and craft in mere minutes (I've done several projects working with similar materials in the past, even making my own riot shield for Halloween). But now they are always sold out and contractors sell it as a pre-made screen for extremely high prices.
Our fitness and sports equipment should be cleaned and disinfected frequently, such as between uses or at the end of play. This includes free weights, weight machines, treadmills, rowing machines, stationary bikes, classroom areas, balls, rackets, gloves, and other sports gear - including having a dedicated worker to ensure cleaning between use". And while we do want to have amenities open, it simply wasn't cost efficient nor did we have the staff available at the time to support the immediate cleaning of areas, schedules and duties needed to be changed.
Back ups and procedures set should anyone become exposed, measures for contact tracing of both staff and residents should that be necessary. As such, we have been waiting for restrictions to relax and to find a way that we can maintain proper disinfection and eliminate risks of crowding whilst still allowing access to the facility.
Know that we are working on it and should, hopefully, very soon have facilities open. We just want it to be safe for you when they do.
Let's talk about the pool.
For those who aren't aware, I took over as the pool’s main operator about a year and a half ago after completing operations courses with a company called PPL. This means that I have taken on major responsibilities for health and safety as well as day to day operations in the pool and spa. Those courses gave me the skills and knowledge necessary to fix issues that had constantly been arising. It also taught me to respect and work closely with our Toronto Public Health Inspector and that we are lucky that while he is strict on rules he is open to our questions and very willing to help, which is not always the case according to stories I've heard from other sites.
That is why, when we hit Phase 3 of Covid-19 in Toronto, my first email was to him. He provided me with the City of Toronto's recommendations for reopening and asked that I follow them to the letter.
Spa update: One unfortunate addition is that when I asked if the spa was allowed to reopen I received "please pause on this until clearer direction is provided by the province".
Pool update: So I filled up the pool, started chemical treatment and got the process running:
(1) First, there is a 14-day waiting period starting from after the first superchlorination. This is a time when the pool has to be filled and circulating and maintaining a good chemistry. This is to show the health inspector that the chemistry can be maintained and that everything within the pool has been sanitized and filtered while allowing the inspector to schedule a visit.
(2) There were also several other items that had to be attended to as per the City's recommendations. This includes (but is certainly not limited to):
(2.a) changes in the HVAC systems for the pool deck,
(2.b) sanitization procedures, and
(2.c) making sure water chemistry is within acceptable ranges.
(3) We have also been asked to:
(3.a) provide markers to allow for physical distancing,
(3.b) measures to ensure contact tracing can be done easily, and
(3.c) closure of some items like showers or lockers that are close to one another.
You see, the big issue isn't the pool... From everything I have read, the chlorine level at which we keep our pool is more than sufficient to remove the threat of the virus from the water. The real problem is the changerooms and frequently touched surfaces like ladders and hand-rails. I have spent a lot of time talking to management arranging for items like:
(1) cleaners schedules to be changed to allow for more frequent cleaning,
(2) suggestions on a sign in and out process to regulate the amount of people in the area and allow for sanitization between,
(3) tracking of who has been in and what times, including staff, to aid in contact tracing.
From what I've heard back, we will be working with Towers 2 and 3 to adopt similar strategies for opening both this and other amenities so that we aren't simply relying on our own knowledge and understanding of what's required in this ever-changing situation.
Finally, let's chat about the BBQs... Nothing says summer like your favourite food cooked over a flame. We have the BBQs ready to light up, and are trying to spend time keeping the area clean and maintained. We are really just waiting on the procedures for use to be properly put in place. Issues we are facing are largely to do with the sharing and commonly touched items, such as BBQ tools, handles and doors. Luckily we have a set of guidelines for BBQ areas to follow as well though unfortunately they are somewhat more vague. So we have decided to take what principles apply to both and implement them there as well. For example, regular cleaning and disinfecting between each use, scheduled time slots to limit flow of people in and out and establish contact tracing protocols.
Please understand that Douglas and I, at the end of the day, are here for you and want to provide these amenities in the safest possible manner. Not only because it is our responsibility to do so but because it would break my heart to hear that anyone got sick due to a preventable situation. We have been working hard with management, security and the cleaners to get everything back up and running but safety has to be our number one concern.
Please be patient. Respect your neighbours. Safety always comes first.