Not long ago, our country was doing a solid job of flattening the curve and clubs began the reopening process…cautiously. The tables have turned, however, as club-heavy states like California, Florida and Arizona are seeing major upticks in COVID-19 cases.
Question: When is a positive a negative?
Answer: When dealing with COVID-19 testing.
Not much more than a month ago, things were looking up in terms of the global coronavirus pandemic. Our country was doing a solid job of flattening the curve and clubs began the reopening process…cautiously.
Unfortunately, as I sit here, writing this column, the tables have turned, once again.
Club-heavy states like California, Florida and Arizona are seeing major upticks in COVID-19 cases. Texas, too. While some argue that it’s merely a case of more testing that’s leading to more positives, others will counter with, “positives are positives, regardless of how they’re found.”
Considering clubs are a microcosm of society—and not protected in an imaginary bubble—it only goes to reason that we’ll be seeing an uptick in positive cases among members and employees.
With that in mind—and as reports began to surface of new positive tests on club properties—the National Club Association hosted a Town Hall webinar, “Dealing with Employee and Member Reports of COVID Symptoms or Sickness at Private Clubs,” on June 25. Jonathan Judge, a Partner at the law firm of Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo in California, addressed the audience with best practices when handling this difficult—and delicate—situation.
While it seems like the coronavirus has been around forever, there’s still so much we’re learning about it. When we thought we knew the symptoms—cough, fever and difficulty breathing—we added chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, or recent loss of taste or smell to the list. Compounding the confusion, a person may have all of the symptoms, or only select issues. On top of that…we can be symptomatic or asymptomatic!
Quoting Benjamin Franklin, Judge said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” To that point, he advises clubs to encourage sick employees to stay home, and to immediately send them home if they’re showing signs of illness while at the club. Have them call their healthcare provider and thoroughly clean the area where the person was working, along with the tools/equipment they were using.
Once you have a sick employee or member, begin to gather information. When did the symptoms start? Was the person exposed to COVID-19? With whom did the person have close contact in the two days prior to the first symptoms?
As with so many situations—both good and bad—communication is critical. Be sure to send notice to those who may have been exposed, and inform the club’s general population that a positive test has been reported. Judge advises clubs, though, to maintain confidentiality, being sure to not release a name, position or other identifying information.
The method for determining when an employee or member may be allowed to return will vary from club to club, or can even depend on individual situations. But Judge presented three strategies: testing-based, symptom-based and time-based. None are foolproof, as symptoms can be vague, timing can be miscalculated, and testing isn’t always readily available or covered by insurance (in the case of multiple tests).
I wrote in May about “Minding the Curve” and hoped it would be the last COVID-related column I’d pen. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. While I knew we were much closer to the start than the finish at the time, I was naïve in thinking things were trending in the right direction. I remain hopeful that we can come together as a country and get this virus under control until we have an effective treatment or vaccine in hand.