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How to Self-Advocate to Local Health Authorities

Posted By Climbing Wall Association, Thursday, July 16, 2020
Local Health Departments

If you own and/or operate a climbing facility you are probably facing the question: “When will I reopen?”

 

Everyone’s circumstances are unique - some gyms have already reopened, some may have been forced to reclose, others may not have received much guidance at all. If you feel that your state or locality’s decisions are not representative of your gym’s overall preparedness or public health and safety measures, there are some steps that you can take to initiate a dialogue with those agencies to help communicate your readiness to open and your care for public health.

 

1. Find out who your local health authorities are and how best to contact them.

2. Organize your data and your thoughts

Make sure that you have your data organized and your thoughts laid out. For example, here are some talking points to consider when you are building your case on why climbing gyms should be permitted to resume operations in your area:

  • Risk management is inherently a part of climbing and a part of operating a climbing gym. Climbers trust science (it protects their lives with every ascent) and understand the importance of carefully evaluating risk and taking recommended and tested steps to mitigate it. Unlike the public, climbers and climbing gym operators are uniquely positioned to adapt to and embrace new risk management measures to keep themselves and their entire community as safe as possible.
    • You manage risk every day and instruct your visitors what risks are present and how you expect them to cooperate to mitigate these risks.
    • Your visitors regularly comply with your policies while actively assuming some of the risks associated with climbing.
  • Evidence shows that coronavirus is difficult to catch from surfaces, and primarily transfers directly from person to person. This means that in terms of contact transmission, climbing gyms pose no more of a threat than does any other activity where one opens doors, picks things up, uses equipment, etc., when hand sanitizing and social distancing measures are applied.
    • Dr. John Whyte, chief medical officer for the health care website WebMD, says that the CDC's slight update brings clarity and helps to reduce fears. “Many people were concerned that by simply touching an object they may get coronavirus, and that’s simply not the case. Even when a virus may stay on a surface, it doesn’t mean that it’s actually infectious,” Whyte said. “I think this new guideline helps people understand more about what does and doesn’t increase risk. It doesn’t mean we stop washing hands and disinfecting surfaces. But it does allow us to be practical and realistic as we try to return to a sense of normalcy."
  • Highlight any measures your climbing gym is taking, such as:
    • Installing hand cleaning stations at frequent intervals
    • Making changes to your physical layout to help with distancing
    • Enforcing social distancing
    • Limiting gym capacity beyond what local laws allow
    • Requiring climbers to book time slots to control the amount of people in the gym
    • Taking temperatures prior to entry and asking health screening questions
    • Playing reminders between songs over the loudspeakers, asking climbers to please respect social distancing measures and to sanitize your hands before and after climbs
    • Requiring staff to wear masks
    • Requiring climbers to wear masks

3. CWA Roadmap to Reopening

You can use the CWA Roadmap to Reopening as a framework to record your own COVID-19 specific plan if you have not already documented your policies. Having a set of procedures, analyses, and protocols in writing will help demonstrate how seriously you take the situation and give the presiding authority a way to analyze your readiness to reopen or remain open.

 

In some areas, gyms have grouped together to present cohesive and non-contradicting plans to their governments. This may help drive your regulators to see climbing gyms as distinct from other businesses and help ease any decisions around closing and opening.

 

VIEW ROADMAP

 

4. CWA Reopening Position Paper

We have published an official position paper, which can be used as part of a packet of information you provide to your health authorities. The paper presents the CWA’s views on reopening climbing gyms. It includes information to help public health officials understand the nature of the activities in a climbing gym, the history and culture of risk management in our industry, and the work that the CWA and many individual businesses have already done to identify and address new risks related to COVID-19.

 

DOWNLOAD PAPER

 

5. Get in touch!

After you find out who is making decisions about your business, give them a call or email. They are there to represent you and your community, and they will be willing to talk – even if they are overburdened and strapped for time. It just may take a few tries and some patience.

 

You can also leverage your local business support organizations such as an SBDC or a chamber of commerce. The organization that is best positioned to help depends on what level of government you need to contact.

 

Better yet, if you, your members, or any other gyms in your state have connections to lobbyists or representatives, find out how to make that connection personal. Networking is a very effective tool in these situations.

 

Tags:  advocacy  coronavirus  COVID-19  leadership  public policy  risk management 

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