According to former acting United States Surgeon General Dr. Kenneth Moritsugu, the fitness centers that have been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic could be reopened if they implement the proper safety precautions. Moritsugu was provided as a source by a trade group led by USA Swimming that is making an effort to reopen pools. SwimSwam spoke with him over the phone directly.
Moritsugu listed five of these safety measures over the phone: good ventilation, distanced exercise machines from each other, increased sanitation of surfaces, social distancing, and masking of both staff and customers.
Swimming is unique in the sense that athletes can’t wear face masks while training or competing. We’ve seen swim meets from small-scale club meets to the Pro Swim Series implement the use of face masks at all times until the athlete is on the blocks.
Organizing a fitness center pool and other aquatic facilities in a COVID-19 safe way is possible using the “principles of prevention” that the CDC has laid out, Moritsugu told SwimSwam. He specifically mentioned social distancing and avoiding crowded areas.
Moritsugu emphasized the added importance of maintaining both physical and mental health during this pandemic.
In the Dallas News, Moritsugu cited a study by Rand Corp that showed Americans have turned more toward alcohol and substance abuse during the pandemic to cope with their stress and anxiety. Physical exercise, Moritsugu wrote that researchers found that 20 minutes of exercise can anti-inflammatory effects that boost your immune system. He also mentioned obesity as a co-morbidity factor with COVID-19.
“It also has to do with being able to physically exercise because when we physically exercise we are generating hormones that really assist our bodies and our minds to be healthy,” Moritsugu explained. “And that I think is really key, that physical health compliments mental health and mental health compliments physical health as well.”
The former acting Surgeon General encouraged creative ways of exercising in the meantime, as the country follows its tier reopening systems. He described using any personal gym equipment you have at home, finding workout programs on the television, and going on walks. “Those are the ways that we can, we need to take individual responsibility for ourselves as well as protecting the community at large,” he said.
When it comes to taking care of your mental health, Moritsugu recommended finding ways to reintroduce safe socialization into your routine. Whether it may be doing your home workout with a friend over Zoom or socially distanced training sessions. He also stated that reading books and doing crossword puzzles are much more beneficial than doing nothing.
Moritsugu said he felt encouraged by the efforts of vaccine manufacturers and by the sight of people lining up to get their vaccines. He believes that once a sufficient part of the population has been vaccinated this will protect the community to the extent to allow some reopenings. President Biden’s medical advisor for COVID-19, Doctor Anthony Fauci, believes all Americans will begin to be able to receive their COVID-19 vaccine in April according to the New York Times.
“My final comment is…we are not yet out of the pandemic although we’re beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel,” Moritsugu told SwimSwam. “And so it’s really important for each of us individually as well as communities to continue to follow the CDC guidelines of masking, washing your hands, avoiding close quarters, avoiding large groups, socially distancing and of course getting your vaccine when it’s offered to you.”
As of Wednesday, February 17, the United States’ death toll caused by COVID-19 has reached 488,000 people. On Friday, the New York Times estimated that 35.8 million Americans have received at least one vaccine and 12.1 million have received their second dose.