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Students express appreciation of COVID-19 safety guidelines in HWAC

Rebecca Wheeler, a junior pre-nursing major at Westminster College, sits outside of the weight room in the Health, Wellness and Activity Center Sept. 3 waiting to check members into the facility. Under new COVID-19 guidelines, only seven members are allowed in the weight room at a time to prevent an outbreak on campus. (Brendan Sudberry)

Despite the pandemic, several facilities at Westminster College are open for student use — implementing COVID-19 health and safety guidelines to prevent an outbreak on campus. Students said the increased precautions allow them to feel safe while using high-profile spots on campus, especially the Health, Wellness and Athletic Center.

Ahead of the start of Fall semester, HWAC issued a detailed list of procedures and guidelines that are enforced in the facility. These include:

  • Wearing a mask at all times when not exercising
  • Reception attendants performing symptom screenings of all patrons entering the facility
  • Physical distancing guidelines
  • Proper equipment sanitization procedures

Westminster developed these guidelines, noting they were consistent with recommendations coming from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Utah Department of Health. 

Although the college implemented broad guidelines for the entire campus — like wearing face coverings indoors and no eating in classrooms — some individual facilities, like HWAC, issued additional policies because of the increased risk associated with physical activity. 

The main way COVID-19 spreads from person to person is through respiratory droplets when people cough or sneeze. Physical exercise — especially indoors — causes rapid breathing which increases the risk of these droplets spreading. 

“I’m comfortable using HWAC even during the pandemic because I believe that the staff and school are going above standard precautions to ensure that students remain safe while exercising.”

However, several students said they appreciate the increased implementations issued by HWAC, noting they feel safe using the facility. 

Mali Marty, a junior nursing major, said she is appreciative of the college’s effort to prioritize the health and safety of college community members through the health guidelines.

She said she continues to feel comfortable using the facilities because she knows the staff is doing their best to protect members.

“I’m comfortable using HWAC even during the pandemic because I believe that the staff and school are going above standard precautions to ensure that students remain safe while exercising,” Marty said. 

Ashley Nye, a junior business major, agreed — noting she still feels comfortable using the rock wall during her weekly Indoor Rock Climbing classes because of the health guidelines.

“When you go in, you have to tell them where you’re going so they know that person was there,” Nye said. “Also, the climbing wall was cool because the chalk they have is liquid chalk, but it also has sanitizing power so when you’re rubbing it on your hands it helps to disinfect the wall as you’re climbing too.”

HWAC employees said they are prioritizing the enforcement of increased policies, doing what they can to ensure a healthy exercise environment. 

Hiatt said she has not seen any issues of students not properly following health and safety guidelines.

“We check people in to limit how many people are in the weight room, we replace towels, we clean towels, we clean common surfaces, and ensure other COVID procedures are being followed,” said Carlie Hiatt, junior neuroscience major and HWAC strength and cardio attendant.

“When I’ve been working, people have been respectful and following those procedures because those procedures cannot be broken,” she said. “Most students I’ve encountered, I would say, are super understanding about it.”

However, Hiatt said she understands if some students remain uneasy. If that’s the case, she said she recommends students start slow and try small sections of the facility at a time. 

She also encouraged students to talk with the reception attendant to find a time when the facility is generally the least busy — and try coming in then.

“We have been trained on [how to conduct COVID-19] procedures,” Hiatt said. “If [a student] would like to ask us about the specific procedures we are following, we would be more than happy to let them know exactly what we are doing every day, and what each staff member is doing during, before, and after their shift.”


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