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Coronavirus 2020

 

 

FAQ

Updated: March 25, 2020

 

Coronavirus, COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, by now we are all aware of what’s happening in the world and what base level precautions we should take in our own lives. As business owners, operators, and employees we have an extra level of concern with regard to how this might impact our businesses.

 


Coronavirus is the name of a family of viruses often isolated to birds and several mammalian species, including humans. It is fairly common for new, or novel, coronaviruses to be identified. Not all of coronaviruses can be transmitted across species, such as from bats to humans. Of the ones that are infectious to humans, most are associated with mild symptoms and would usually be thought of as the common cold. Every species, however, is distinct.

 

In January 2020 a novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, was identified as the causative agent of an outbreak of viral pneumonia centered around Wuhan, Hubei, China. That disease is now called COVID-19.

 

In the last two decades there have been two other serious coronavirus threats. In 2002 SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) emerged in China and in 2012 MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) emerged in Saudi Arabia. While these viruses are in the same family as the COVID-19 virus, it is important to recognize that this does not mean that it will behave the same way. While scientists can use some of the similarities as a starting point for their thinking and research, we should not allow these comparisons to lead us to any dangerous assumptions.

 

Although COVID-19 is a respiratory disease similar to the common cold, SARS, and MERS, it is important to emphasize that this is a novel virus, and the behavior of previous strains are only a reference point. We cannot predict the timeline, severity, or contagiousness of this disease.

 

The mortality rate for this coronavirus is only estimated, and current estimates are heavily skewed by testing rates, self-reporting, and health care accessibility. Estimates range from 1-5%. As a reference point, the influenza family of viruses, which are commonly known as the flu, carry on average an ~0.1% mortality rate. Globally between 250,000 and 500,000 people die each year from the flu, with 3-5 million people contracting the disease. If we see similar infection levels of COVID-19, the numbers of dead and hospitalized will be much greater.

 

Though the COVID-19 virus is new, what we do know is that it is both more infectious and more likely to kill than the flu. There is also no current vaccine or treatment. Public officials are working vigilantly to make sure that, with this more deadly disease, people do not fall into the complacency that can occur with seasonal flu. If we misread statistics and fail to grasp the magnitude of this current pandemic, we could inadvertently impact the ability of our countries to contain this disease.

There are a lot of surfaces in a climbing gym. And, a lot of different bodily fluids can be on certain surfaces both inadvertently and intentionally. Let’s look at what it takes for someone to actually get sick.

This is a viral family transmitted by “droplets” - small particles of saliva and other respiratory secretions which can linger in the air.

There is evidence that some coronaviruses can persist on surfaces for a period. The survival period of the COVID-19 virus is not known at this point, but it is estimated at 4 hours to 3 days (depending on the surface and the climate) based on research recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine. The CDC has put out guidelines for cleaning and disinfection. These should apply to the COVID-19 virus and all other diseases.

Whether the transmission is from an infected surface or droplets in the air, the only guaranteed way for someone to get sick is to transfer droplets into their nose, lungs, or eyes. This is why so much guidance that you have seen is to avoid touching your face at all costs and to vigilantly wash your hands.

It is also important to remember that someone who is sick is not necessarily sick with COVID-19 and it is best to protect against all diseases so that you, and your customers, can continue on in the healthiest way possible.

 

There is also a new concern that asymptomatic transmission may be a greater risk than the WHO or CDC previously stated. Updated guidance from the WHO addresses this:

 

Can CoVID-19 be caught from a person who has no symptoms?

The main way the disease spreads is through respiratory droplets expelled by someone who is coughing. The risk of catching COVID-19 from someone with no symptoms at all is very low. However, many people with COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms. This is particularly true at the early stages of the disease. It is therefore possible to catch COVID-19 from someone who has, for example, just a mild cough and does not feel ill.  WHO is assessing ongoing research on the period of transmission of COVID-19 and will continue to share updated findings.

The risk for any individual organization is going to be completely dependent on their location. In North America, here is a list of organizations in the US and Canada that you should pay attention to. For our members around the world, the best first point of contact is your national disease control organization.

The WHO has declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic. That’s a scary word, but it’s important to know that the WHO definition of this term is merely the sustained worldwide spread of a new disease. While it sounds very serious, the term pandemic has nothing to do with the disease itself or its deadliness, but only the level of observed transmission.

It’s unknown at this point how many people in the world may become infected, but as of March 13, confirmed cases have reached more than 130,000 and counting. For the most current estimates, refer to the WHO’s Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Situation dashboard. While we know the number of cases will grow, we can all do our part to protect ourselves and those around us.

In the US you should pay attention to the most current information provided by the CDC and WHO. Much of this direction comes down to basic hygiene and practices that will help every flu season in reducing the number of virus-related deaths. Do not ignore this advice. You’ve heard these on every news outlet, on every website, and from everyone talking about this, but some of these fundamental improvements are the ones that people tend to overlook or treat with complacency.

In a climbing gym you should encourage people to regularly wash their hands, avoid the gym if they are sick (especially if they may have come in contact with a confirmed coronavirus case or traveled to an impacted area), stop touching their faces, and practice some level of social distancing.

Social distancing can be as simple as avoiding handshakes or as severe as staying 6 feet or 2 meters from anybody else. What we can do as individuals, and what you can ask your customers to do on a smaller scale, is to cough or sneeze into their elbows or into a tissue and to clean their hands before touching any part of their face.

 

Climbing holds are not necessarily riskier to touch than any other surface if the above-mentioned precautions are observed. While it would be wonderful if you could sanitize every route every day (or after each climb) that is obviously not feasible at this time.

 

There is also concern that asymptomatic transmission may be a greater risk than the WHO or CDC previously stated. Updated guidance from the WHO addresses this:

 

Can CoVID-19 be caught from a person who has no symptoms?

The main way the disease spreads is through respiratory droplets expelled by someone who is coughing. The risk of catching COVID-19 from someone with no symptoms at all is very low. However, many people with COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms. This is particularly true at the early stages of the disease. It is therefore possible to catch COVID-19 from someone who has, for example, just a mild cough and does not feel ill.  WHO is assessing ongoing research on the period of transmission of COVID-19 and will continue to share updated findings.


In the US there is an outsized appreciation for commercial hand sanitizer. But you should know that a 20-second hand wash with soap and water is equivalent to or better than alcohol-based hand sanitizer. This is why the hygiene message has been drummed into our heads over and over again – simply put, there are no better preventative measures than washing your hands correctly and not touching your face.

However, in larger public spaces without easy access to a sink, alcohol-based sanitizing stations are the best way to provide access for hygiene. And in any environment where water is not available these may be the best option. Masks, gloves, or any other device has a far smaller impact on your risk level than these two practices.

The WHO has published detailed information about how to handle COVID-19 in the workplace. Many of the suggestions are what you may have read or heard before, but don’t be complacent. Take a look at your facility and see where you might be able to make improvements for your customers and your staff.

Ask anyone who is sick to stay home. Quite frankly, based on our research, that should hold true for more common illnesses as well. You can’t necessarily enforce this policy, but as a first line of defense, asking people to self-identify and quarantine can be effective. The CDC recommends that anyone with a mild cough or a low-grade fever stay home.

Create messaging or posters that reinforce the idea that we are all members of the climbing community and we owe it to each other to keep all members of our community and their families safe. Include links to your local health agencies and maybe offer suggestions on how to stay in climbing shape at home. We can make these messages positive and serious at the same time.

Use hand sanitizers where appropriate but everyday hand soap and warm water is just as effective. Encourage your members to participate in this minimal level of hygiene. It would not be too extreme to encourage people to wash their hands periodically during a climbing session and to never touch their eyes, nose, or mouth.

You may want to consider banning or limiting food or beverages at your gym. While there is no evidence that transmission can occur through food, the act of eating or drinking may lead to unnecessary face touching. This is yet another area where at a minimum good hand hygiene should be practiced before a meal or snack.

It is a good idea to increase your cleaning frequency in your gym as well for both your customers and your staff’s protection. Remember to clean high-touch surfaces in  offices as much as the bathrooms and front counter.

You may also want to increase the sterilization of any rental gear, shoes, and climbing ropes. Disinfectant wipes or regular washing with mild soap should be enough to handle most viruses. Some commercial climbing rope washes may contain disinfectants, but you can always use mild soap and warm water. Always follow the manufacturer’s cleaning guidelines.

 

Increasing your routesetting frequency is your best chance to clean your holds, but without daily or more frequent cleaning there is not great evidence that this would be an effective measure. Additionally, cleaning without soap, bleach, or other aggressive disinfectants would not necessarily kill the virus. There is no evidence that pressure washing alone would be enough, and vinegar is not an EPA rated disinfectant and may not be enough to sanitize your holds.

 

If you have any events scheduled in the next 2 months pay special attention to the CDC guidelines about mass gatherings. Currently, they are recommending to cancel any event of greater than 50 people. While this does not apply specifically to businesses, consider your space and how close people may be to each other while climbing.

Have a response plan ready for your gym and be ready to talk frankly with your employees and customers about what your plans are. In this plan make sure to know who your local public health officials are and communicate directly with them if you suspect that someone with COVID-19 has been to your gym. The CDC has published a helpful checklist for businesses creating a response plan.

In some countries you may be contacted by those authorities themselves, if their investigations identify that your facility was visited. However, it is best to be proactive about this and communicate directly with officials about your concerns. Here is a list of organizations in the US and Canada, for other countries your national health organization should have resources available to identify your local contact.

Have a plan in place about how you will clean your gym if you need to return it to service after an outbreak. This could include, on the extreme end, plans for stripping your entire gym. However, at this time there is no evidence that COVID-19 is spread through environmental exposure and in the US OSHA has no specific recommendations for workplace decontamination at this time. If you’d like to learn more about what highly impacted business such as hospitals do to disinfect, the CDC publishes guidelines on disinfection.

In your response plan do develop some communications outlining what plans you have to clean your gym and return it to business. Your customers will be concerned, but they will want to continue climbing. These types of communications are another chance to reinforce community and the ways that you serve your customers.

If your local government or health authorities have implemented mandatory closures then, yes, you must close your gym. Do not ignore their guidance.

 

As of March 15, the CDC has recommended that all mass gatherings greater than 50 people be cancelled for the next 8 weeks. As many of your businesses regularly see more members than that gathered at any given time, think carefully about your choices and risks. The CDC says “This recommendation does not apply to the day to day operation of organizations such as schools, institutes of higher learning, or businesses. This recommendation is made in an attempt to reduce introduction of the virus into new communities and to slow the spread of infection in communities already affected by the virus.” This is still your choice, but please make that choice carefully. Consider your location, your community's risk, and the guidance offered in the  CDC Mitigation Strategy.

 

It might even be the case that it's not your choice to shutdown - as we have seen in several municipalities. If you choose to stay open always adhere to CDC guidelines for protecting vulnerable populations and hand hygiene, and social distancing.


If you feel that a voluntary closure is the best way to protect your employees, customers, and community, please plan carefully and thoughtfully in order to protect yourself and your business. Your climbing gym is an invaluable asset to your community, and they will thank you for any action that ensures you are open for business when this pandemic is over.

The decision to cease operations voluntarily is incredibly brave and serious. But, the ramifications of a quick decision now could impact your business for years to come. If you are choosing to, or considering, closing here are some potential areas of risk you should be prepared to address.

Your first course of action should be to contact your insurance provider. Even in the event of mandatory closures, it is unlikely at this time that many people will have any, or sufficient, coverage for loss of income due to COVID-19, and if you close voluntarily your risk exposure is likely much greater. Every policy is different, and you should pay close attention to the wording in your specific policy. You can and should contact your provider directly for assistance.

It is also important to note that voluntary closures could potentially impact your access to any local or federal aid programs that may be developed. For example, the SBA Disaster Assistance Loans are usually allotted to particular locations and for specific events with defined time periods. Additionally, you will need to go through a normal loan process including credit checks and an analysis of your ability to repay the loan. Anything you can do now to solidify your business planning over the next several years could help you during that qualification process.

It is unknown at this point what other aid may be available to you, but for all intents and purposes, you should not plan for anything above private loans that you can personally secure and the income you can hope for after the pandemic.

If you have events scheduled and have entered into contracts with vendors, your voluntary closure may also limit your ability to exit those contracts. However, private contracts often contain clauses to allow for renegotiation and your vendor’s desire to continue doing business with you in the future may give you some room for negotiation. Even if you have a contract or loan that does not contain such language, it can be worth attempting to ask for deferment or reductions where appropriate.

On top of financial risks, you need to consider any legal risks. Some of the most critical areas of exposure are around your employees and your member contracts. If you don’t handle a voluntary closure carefully, and with the advice of your lawyer, there could be potential for lawsuits from either party.

For example, in the US, if you have more than 100 employees, the WARN act generally requires 60-day notice before any closing. However, there are many exceptions to that rule and only your lawyer will be able to give you the correct advice on how to handle your decision. 

Likewise, there are numerous national, state, and local labor codes that you will need to pay close attention to, and you should be very careful that any notice periods, payroll processes, and communications are in line with all laws that apply to your business.

In the US, federal legislation is in the works that could open up additional funding for unemployment assurance and economic assistance for individuals affected by COVID-19. It is unclear at this moment what the exact law will be, but it is possible that a voluntary closure may affect you or your employees access to assistance. Again, this is a question for your lawyer. Regardless if you are thinking about this option or not, you need to build a strong financial model for your business looking out a number of years. Begin to make strategic choices that will ensure your gym is prepared to absorb the events of this year, and that your business can make it past this pandemic to be there in the future for your employees and your members.

 

Whether you closed your gym voluntarily, or you are in an area where your gym was forced to close you are dealing with some challenging questions at the moment. We want to remind you that you do have options and that the CWA is here to help in any way possible.

 

If you have not done so already reach out to your insurance provider, your landlord, and any lenders to see what deferments are available. All of these providers know that this is not your fault and that indoor climbing, in general, is a viable business model. They will prefer to help you rather than see you go out of business. In some cases, they may be eligible in the future for aid in relation to any assistance they provide, and as the situation develops rapidly may even have restrictions on when and how they collect payments.

 

Many banks are offering 90 day deferments for loans. You may even be able to accumulate your principal and interest payments for the next 6 months and have them added your last payment. The best course of action is to start the conversation as soon as possible. Similarly, your landlord may be willing, or mandated to, defer your rent payments and to wait to collect any rent owed until after the pandemic is over.

 

Likewise, insurance policies could be frozen, claims could be filed, and there may be some potential to renegotiate liability premiums to account for changes in your forecasted income. The CWA’s partner, Monument Sports Group, is working to negotiate with the insurance carriers on behalf of the entire industry. Mid-term policy adjustments, payment deferments, and extending policy terms to ease some of the pressure you are feeling. Monument has also contacted carriers outside of the CWA program to encourage that they explore similar options.

 

Possibly the most difficult decisions you will be making are around your employees. Assistance is coming rapidly and you should pay attention to your local department of labor for any changes they have made which could allow you to lay off or reduce the hours of employees knowing that they are eligible for unemployment benefits to make up for the lost wages. On March 18th the Families First Coronavirus Response Act was passed and it’s provisions will help support those efforts. This act also will affect what leave you have to provide your employees and how you must pay them during extended leave. We will provide a more thorough review in another article.

 

An often overlooked are of savings are the benefits that you offer your employees. You can explore the option to suspend or cancel any non-essential benefits such as dental or vision insurance and retirement benefits. Discuss these options with your lawyer to make sure that you are not violating any employment contracts.

 

While the full range of assistance programs are being determined the most immediate program you may have access to is the SBA Disaster Loan Program. If you qualify you are eligible for a loan up to $2 Million at an interest rate of 3.75% with a term of 30 years. To apply go directly to their website and begin the application.

 

The CWA will be here for you throughout this crisis and after. The long term future of the climbing industry still looks very bright and it is vital to remember that your customers can’t wait to get back into the gym.

The first thing you can do is to focus on cleaning. This small risk prevention measure could help if someone makes a claim that they became sick at your facility. Insurance policies providing General Liability and Property coverage may not respond for coronavirus-related claims. In fact, many carriers added specific exclusions following prior virus outbreaks in order to limit their exposure.

Standard Pollution exclusions along with exclusions referring to virus, bacteria, communicable disease, and pandemics are all potentially significant hurdles for coverage. The Insurance industry is expecting complex claim scenarios and significant legal disputes in interpreting policy language. Please make sure to consult with your agent regarding your policies.

Given that Liability coverage may not respond to a claim alleging that the gym’s negligence led to the exposure and infection of a climber, you should factor that into your risk management decisions.  Following local and national government recommendations and requirements is critical. Gyms have made it a priority to educate climbers on the risks of climbing and their responsibility for their own safety and should employ similar strategies with respect to coronavirus.

The most likely Property coverage claim is a Business Interruption claim for reduced income. The aforementioned exclusions will most likely mean that the policy will not respond for coronavirus-related claims, including Loss of Income as a result of government-mandated closure. You should examine your claim, discuss your coverage with your provider, and understand your level of risk.

Above and beyond these concerns, the financial impact will be hard to navigate. You should review your membership and program policies and make the decision as to how you will navigate the fine line between keeping your cashflow positive and not creating long-term impacts on your relationship with your members. There is no perfect answer to this question and every gym will have to make their own decisions.

One advantage that we have as an industry is the strong sense of community that we have built. Use this in your messaging and implore your members to stick with you through tough times. Keep your messaging positive and forward-looking. Consider rewarding members who stick with you. A small investment in thank-you gifts or benefits could help.

You could also create or re-schedule a member appreciation event for after the pandemic dies down. None of your members will want to  make the decision to stop climbing or freeze their membership. If you can give them something extra to look forward to after their worries subside, that may be enough to keep people calm and committed.

When it comes to your finances, you may have more options than you think. Take a look at your loans carefully and identify which ones might offer some flexibility. Many institutions have the same concerns that you do and may be willing to offer concessions rather than risk default.

Some banks and credit card companies are already implementing assistance programs. For example, CITI and Wells Fargo have both released communications about what they are willing to do, including credit line increases and fee waivers.

While adding more debt is never an attractive option, you may be eligible to begin or increase a line of credit at your local bank. A loan is another option if you know how much you need to cover a fixed period of expenses. It may be better to look at these options as soon as possible if you think you will need them, as they may be more difficult to obtain if things get worse.

Rent is another area where you may have some ability to negotiate. You can ask your landlord for a temporary reduction, a deferment, or for other relief. Most rental contracts will not explicitly allow for this, but voluntary arrangements can be made. If you are in a business, industrial, retail center, or mixed-use property, it may also help to speak with other tenants and approach your landlord collectively.

The best sources for information in the US will come from the Department of Labor and OSHA. Both agencies have released guidelines to help businesses navigate their policies and actions and keep them legal.

As you are putting preventative measures in place for your customers, communicate your plans with your staff. Make sure they know that extra precautions and cleaning is beneficial to them as well as your customers. Prepare them with the communication tools and messages you want to communicate to your customers. They will be fielding many tough questions, and your entire organization should have the same answers and tone.

The majority of our industry will not be able to make any use of remote work policies and in the worst-case scenario we will have to deal with reducing hours or even layoffs. When making these decisions, make sure that any action is in-line with local and national law. For many of us we have great flexibility as small businesses, however larger organizations should be familiar with stricter rules, such as the WARN act in the US.

There is also the community and public relations aspect to consider. Think carefully about making staff the first line of cost reduction. If you must make these types of cuts, look to ways to reassure your team that your gym will return to a normal level of business after the pandemic calms. It may be hard to know that, and we all have our own fears, but as leaders in our industry it is important to keep people calm, positive, and focused.

 

As of March 16th, many states are amending their codes to provide relief for workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic. If you must cut hours or lay off staff pay attention to your state's department of labor. Also make sure that your employee has this information and that they know what benefits they are eligible for.

Depending on where your business operates, you may end up being eligible for some help from your government. Worldwide funds are being prepared to help small businesses weather the financial impact of this pandemic.

In the US the SBA may provide some relief for economic injury with their disaster loan program. These loans will be available to designated states and territories. Additionally, local and state governments are creating response funds to help impacted businesses.

 

Your local department of labor may also amend it's codes to offer additional or more easily accessible unemployment benefits to any staff who have reduced hours or get laid off. Make sure you know what benefits they are eligible for and offer them the resources to apply for any assistance that they are due.

Keep in touch with your local government representatives and make your concerns and needs known. As we move through this event there may be more grants made available to small businesses around the world.

 

 


 

 

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Latest News

 

March 03/25/2020

An Open Letter To Congress

March 03/24/2020

Membership Communications

March 03/20/2020

The Impact of H.R. 6201

March 03/20/2020

My Gym Is Closed, Now What?

 

 

 


 

 

What you can do to help

 

The CWA will be advocating on your behalf throughout this crisis. We know that many of you also want to help the industry and lessen the blow of this pandemic on all of our businesses.If you have previous professional experience in advocacy, you know a representative, or you just want to share your gym's story and data to help demonstrate our value please get in touch with us. You can share any of these efforts with your colleagues and members as well. Together we are stronger.

 


 

 

 

Other Resources

 

CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses

Key OSHA Standards for COVID-19

SBA Disaster Assistance Loans

EPA List of Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2

Climbing Business Journal List of Resources

 

 

 

We are too early in this event to know the full impact, but by putting some of the basic preventative measures in place we can protect ourselves, our businesses, and our communities. It is vital to stay calm, follow the best research and news, and keep all channels of communication open with our customers and employees.

Climbing is a massively important component in many people’s lives, and we should feel confident that after this event we will continue to see our businesses and industry grow. With this in mind, we should make our plans forward-looking and focus on communicating what we are doing to help while reassuring our customers that we will be here for them now and in the future.

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