Story and photos by CHANDLER HOLT
The George S. Eccles Student Life Center, on the University of Utah campus, is a four-story building complete with a gym, basketball courts, an Olympic size swimming pool, a rock-climbing wall and many other features. Students, staff and Utahns alike are all welcome to use the gym and its facilities. The 180,000-square-foot gym can have hundreds of people inside at once. With the COVID-19 virus still running rampant in 2021, one could think that there should be concerns raised about the safety or practicality of gym usage at the Student Life Center. The U had these concerns in mind while setting the regulations regarding coronavirus, but do gym-goers follow these regulations as tightly as the U would have hoped?
According to the Campus Recreation Services website, the U has been “following state health guidelines and other federal directives” to keep those who use the gym safe. In regard to mask use, the same page reads that masks are not required in the facilities, but the U encourages gym-goers to follow the guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when deciding whether they will wear a face covering at the Student Life Center.
Sebastian Myers, a U student and avid gym-goer, loves spending his time at the gym playing court sports and lifting weights. Myers said he feels safe in the gym, but he doesn’t like to get caught up thinking about others’ coronavirus safety steps since he can only control himself. Myers also said that he thinks only about 10% or 15% of people in the Student Life Center wear a mask regularly. Since only a little over half of Utah residents are vaccinated, it is hard to believe that everyone not vaccinated is also wearing a mask.
Jackson Knaphus, a U student and weightlifting enthusiast, also said that he feels safe in the gym. He then quickly admitted that if a sickness came about, he would suspect he got it from the gym at some point. He also estimated that around 10% of people wear masks in the gym. Knaphus was unsure how much confidence he held in his peers’ ability to stay safe with coronavirus in 2021-22, he added that there is a potential “stalemate” between vaccine rates and case numbers.
Slater Mead, a U student and rock-climbing advocate, agreed with Myers and Knaphus in saying he felt safe in the gym environment. Mead also guessed that around 10% to 20% of people wear a mask at the gym. Despite being vaccinated, he said that he still feels more comfortable wearing a mask, so he continues to wear his face covering at the gym. Mead admitted that he had little to no confidence in his peers’ ability to stay safe with the coronavirus in 2021-22. He said that people are reckless and tend to value entertainment over safety.
Even though all three students agreed on the fact that there are coronavirus-related and mask-encouraging signs everywhere throughout the gym, only Myers and Mead agreed they felt encouraged to wear a mask. Mead said it was hard not to be encouraged just due to the sheer number of signs that give the reasons one should practice COVID safety. Knaphus, after pointing out the fact that the COVID safety signs were plentiful, still admitted to feeling discouraged from wearing a mask due to the small percentage of others who wear masks.
The three students all declared that they had never and would never go to the gym while sick. They also all agreed that if masks were to become mandatory again, they would comply for the good and safety of themselves and also those around them. Mead said he thinks mask use should be much higher than it currently is considering that Salt Lake County is in a period of high transmission. Knaphus added that he doesn’t think another mask mandate would be received well by Utahns.
The Campus Recreation Services website also has a list of guidelines that it encourages all gym users to adhere to. Some of these guidelines are, “Follow all posted COVID-19 signage and policies, please stay home if you have any flu-like symptoms (no matter how mild), please wash and sanitize your hands often, avoid touching your face, and wipe down your equipment before and after use with provided sanitizing spray.”
All these guidelines, if followed correctly, would greatly increase one’s odds of staying safe from COVID-19 while also being able to enjoy the Student Life Center and its facilities. With all the coronavirus safety information a person could ever want available online, people who go to the Student Life Center have the necessary information available to keep themselves and others safe. If everyone does their part, the coronavirus can become a worry from the past. Steps can be taken in the right direction, and it isn’t completely dependent on if an individual wears a face covering or gets a vaccination. Even though those two things may help the most, every small step matters.