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Sunday, January 29, 2023

How UF’s gyms are handling COVID-19

Gyms will be increasing capacity and requiring students to be cleared for campus

<p>Students exit UF&#x27;s Southwest Rec Center on a Sunday night.</p>

Students exit UF's Southwest Rec Center on a Sunday night.

To adapt to a busier campus this Spring while keeping students safe, UF’s gyms increased capacity, required students to be cleared for campus and closed certain spaces.

At Southwest Recreation Center, the weight room’s capacity has increased from 70 to 100 people, and the cardio spaces now have a capacity of over 100 people, Marty Dempsey, associate director for facility operations for all UF facilities, said.

Dempsey said the gyms were able to increase capacity because of the success of the Fall measures and the ability to space out equipment. Making sure patrons are cleared for campus has been a smooth process, he said.

The gyms have also kept certain spaces closed. Locker rooms, basketball on the multipurpose courts, Olympic lifting and water fountains are closed at Southwest Rec to maintain social distancing, Dempsey said.

Features like basketball have been moved and playtime is by appointment only, he said. Everyone is required to wear a mask, and games are limited to 3-on-3 so there are fewer people on the court. Staff members maintain records of who patrons play with and against each game. 

“That way, if somebody did contract COVID-19, through contact tracing, we would be able to identify the other participants, be able to reach out, hopefully, help to stop the spread,” Dempsey said.

While certain features have been closed, Dempsey said others have returned this Spring, including more intramural and traditional sports and group fitness classes. In the Fall, the gyms were just offering virtual and outdoor classes.

“As we’ve been able to develop our protocols and procedures and see what has worked, we have been able to return to some of the programs that our participants love,” Dempsey said.

Long lines haven’t really been an issue this Spring, and students are abiding by the safety measures, Dempsey said.

“Every once in a while, we’ve got to have a conversation with somebody and then talk through why we have the policy,” he said. “But I appreciate how well the UF community has responded to protecting each other.”

Ty Livezey, a 20-year-old UF political science junior, used the gym four times a week last Spring. But he plans to go less this semester because of lower capacities and the closure of certain utilities. 

“A lot of the time, if you want to do anything in the weight room, you’re going to have to wait,” Livezey said. “It’s really rare that the weight room isn’t at full capacity.”

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Livezey also feels that the cleared for campus requirement doesn’t go far enough, because while it requires students to get tested, it doesn’t require them to obtain a negative result.

“I don’t think that the cleared for campus status means anything if it doesn’t represent a negative test or that you just don’t have the symptoms, ” he said.

While he understands the risks, Livezey said working out is a priority. 

“All my classes are online, and I’ve been in quarantine at home for the last nine months,” he said. “So, for me, going to the gym is one of the few activities that are still open and I consider safe.” 

Katherine Perez, a 21-year-old UF women’s studies junior, is a facility operations associate for RecSports. She started working this Spring and said that despite COVID-19, she feels safe at work.

Enforcing the safety measures isn’t tiresome, she said, because it’s important to keep everyone safe. All staff wear masks at all times and patrons aren’t allowed in without one. Despite the precautions, however, she’s more worried about Spring.

“I am a bit more worried there will be an outbreak at the gym because there are much more people on campus than last semester, ” Perez wrote in an email. 

However, Perez said she is grateful to have a job right now, especially during a pandemic.

“Having a source of income right now when a lot of people have lost their jobs is a privilege,” she wrote. “Also, having a chance to interact with others has improved my wellbeing.”

Despite the risks, students should feel confident they will be safe at the gym because of RecSports’ strict safety measures, Perez said.

Staff members like Perez have enabled the gyms to remain open for as long as they have and been an integral part of the gyms’ success, Dempsey said. 

“Right from the get-go, they were ready to get back to work and help serve the community,” he said. “They have been amazing in helping give feedback about policies, challenging us to look at things in certain ways. They really are the ones that make the magic happen.”

Contact J.P. Oprison at Follow him on Twitter @joprison.

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J.P. Oprison

J.P. is a third year UF journalism student. He is currently a university news assistant for The Alligator.  

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