Following an announcement that the Recreational Sports Facility, or RSF, would no longer require reservations beginning Sept. 7, members of the campus community expressed their thoughts regarding COVID-19 risks.
In light of the recent Berkeley public health order, students will be required to show proof of their COVID-19 vaccinations before accessing any recreational sports facilities or gyms on campus, campus spokesperson Adam Ratliff noted. Masks will still be required as well.
Previously, the RSF functioned at limited capacity with students signing up for time slots online, according to Ratliff.
James Weichert, ASUC academic affairs vice president, said while wellness is important and accessibility to the RSF has now increased, COVID-19 cases are still high among the campus community.
“It’s a mixed reaction because it is not aligning really with what we’re seeing in terms of rising COVID cases and the seriousness of this pandemic,” Weichert said. “That is an indictment both of RSF individually, but more importantly, of the entire campus which has done very little to keep students safe and has over the course of the past month.”
Campus previously delayed a full reopening of the RSF due to COVID-19 concerns, Weichert said, noting that the exchange of sweat and bodily fluids in a gym can increase the risk of transmission. He added that campus could have improved the existing reservation system instead of operating at full capacity.
According to campus senior Adrian Perez, slots would fill up within minutes under the previous reservation system. Perez said in an email that as with any crowded space, he realizes there is a risk of COVID-19 transmission. Perez, however, said he feels safe going to the RSF because of campus’s high vaccination rates, requirement for face coverings and expected proof of vaccination.
Richard Yu, campus senior, echoed similar sentiments, noting he feels “very safe” going to the RSF with campus’s mask and vaccination policies.
“With residence halls, dining halls, and libraries opening, and having in-person lectures after a year of remote instruction, it didn’t make sense that we needed to book an appointment to use the gym,” Perez said in the email.
Laura Kwong, campus assistant professor of environmental health sciences, noted that she encourages the use of surgical masks, which are more effective at preventing transmission than cloth masks.
Arthur Reingold, campus professor of epidemiology, added that individuals breathe heavily while exercising, which can increase the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission. In order to mitigate the risk, ventilation should be maximized and physical distancing should be enforced.
“This, we hope, represents an evolution back towards fewer restrictions and the ability to do more on the campus and in the community in general,” Reingold said. “The hope is that being back in person on campus is much safer because of high levels of vaccination and that we can do this safely.”