COVID-19: A chat with Ben Mazer, MD an ER physician in Boca Raton

COVID-19: A chat with Ben Mazer, MD an ER physician in Boca Raton

I have been inundated with emails, texts, and phone calls from clients saying how happy they are that we are remaining partially open during this time where everyone else is closing. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again – I am so grateful for the support you have given me and my team. It’s been extremely difficult and anxiety evoking having to adjust almost everyday to something new that comes out. While some people might interpret my desire to remain open as me “not caring about spreading the disease”, the truth is, we are not trying to profit right now (I’ve sat out of payroll for this entire month). Everything we have been doing to stay open has been in the best interests of our clients’ health and the goals they have set out to achieve. I made a promise to be here for all of you, no matter what. And I am going to follow through on that promise. Whether you are doing in-studio sessions or virtual sessions, I want you to know that I am so proud of you all for your commitment to your health during this CRAZY time.

My younger brother, Ben Mazer, MD, is an ER doctor in Boca Raton, FL. I have been fortunate enough to have him as my official consultant and source of reliable information for all of the executive and business decisions I’ve made in response to COVID-19. He has been working 12-hour shifts 5-6 days a week, getting an average of 4 hours of sleep every night, but I was finally able to sit down and catch up with him this weekend to talk about his experience with the virus and get a little more of his input on what we are doing and whether it is safe.

Below is an overview of our Q&A session:

1) Eli: “Tell us a little about yourself…”

Ben Mazer: “I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. I went to medical school at the Medical College of Georgia, and now I work as an ER doctor in Boca Raton, Florida. My passion for medicine started when I had life-saving appendix surgery when I was 12 years old. The care I received in the hospital was fascinating to me. Since then I have taken a vested interest in the medical field, which has led me in to pursuing a career in this industry.”

2). Eli: “So…. Have you had any patients with COVID-19?”

BM: “I have had several COVID-19 patients, some with only very mild symptoms and others that were critically ill. I work at three different hospitals in the area, and at all of them, the ICU is at full capacity and we have hundreds of other COVID-19 patients admitted to the regular hospital floors. There is an older demographic in my community, so we are seeing a proportionally larger number of COVID-19 cases.”

3). Eli: “How is COVID-19 transmitted? If someone who unknowingly had it trained at the studio, would it be transmitted to other clients?”

BM: “The novel Coronavirus is mainly transmitted from person-to-person via respiratory droplets. When a person is infected, they shed copies of the virus in their respiratory secretions. This means that every time an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, small droplets of saliva and respiratory secretions are propelled into the air. If those droplets make contact with another person, they may become infected. In addition, if those droplets fall onto a surface and someone touches that surface, they also may become infected. A person is at highest risk when they touch their own face, eyes, nose, or mouth. This is why it is so important to maintain an adequate distance from other people. As long as your clients and staff are maintaining at least 6 feet of distance, washing their hands, and not touching their face, then no one should be at risk of getting infected, even if someone came in who unknowingly had the virus.”

4). Eli: “Many gyms and fitness facilities have chosen to close during this time. Since we offer a one-on-one experience that can be closely monitored, we have decided to remain open, of course with modified practices. This includes additional sanitation measures, training fewer sessions at one time, closing off the cardio/lobby area, and allotting an additional 5 minutes between sessions for sterilization. We’ve even hired a sanitation crew member who’s entire job is to go around making sure everything is sanitized before, during, and after the sessions. Do you think we are being irresponsible?”

BM: “Personal training is safe, as long as the trainer maintains a distance of at least 6 feet from the client without any direct contact. In addition, extra precautions should be taken to ensure that every surface is cleaned with disinfectant. Of course if there is ever accidental direct contact, the risk is extremely minimal, as long as you immediately wash that area with soap and water or hand sanitizer, which 100% kills the virus. Exercise is extremely important during this time. People cannot neglect their health during the period of this pandemic. Social distancing does not mean that you cannot ever be around other people – it means you should always maintain your distance by at least 6 feet. If you have your clients on regimented resistance training programs, these people need to keep this routine going. If you neglect your fitness, nutrition, or emotional health, you may actually put yourself at greater risk because of the effect this can have on your immune system. I think it is very courageous and honorable of you to continue to serve your clients during this time when so many other studios are closing their doors, which might be doing a disservice to their members. Keep doing what you are doing, again, as long as you are following all the precationary measures set by the CDC.”

5). Eli: “Are there any exercises we should avoid for the sake of reducing risk?”

BM: “Not really. I would avoid any activity that requires two people to be directly facing one another, especially since proper breathing is such a fundamental part of working out. I would advise that if your trainers are spotting, they should never stand over or in front of clients, and instead stand beside or behind them. Even just forceful exhalation can propel respiratory droplets onto the surface in front of you. But again, as long as you are maintaining your distance by 6 feet, you should be safe. Keep hand sanitizer accessible, instruct your clients to wash their hands when they first arrive and even during the sessions.”

6). Eli: “What are a few tangible things we can do every day to protect ourselves?”

BM: “Well, I’ll say it again—maintain your distance from other people. Avoid groups of people and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds at a time. Do not touch your face, mouth, eyes, or nose, especially if you have not recently washed your hands. Maintaining your exercise routine is so crucial to keeping your immune system elevated, in the event that you were to be incidentally exposed, your risk would be much lower.”

7) Eli: “What is one thing you would say to a client who is hesitant to leave their house?”

BM: “Try not to be scared or panic. This is a time that we all need to be here to support each other. Studies show that going outside and getting that Vitamin D from the sun will reduce your chances of beocming infected. Just be smart, careful, and take extra precautions. Even though Eli is my family, I would not be advising him to continue offeirng his personal training services if it was putting anyone at risk. We are all in this fight together, and every time we do something healthy for ourselves like exercising, we are also contributing to the well-being of those around us.”

Thank you all for continuing to invest in your health during this unprecedented time. Once all the dust settles and everything gets back to normal, you are going to be so grateful that you continued your routine through all this. Imagine all the people who are no longer working out because their gyms are closed. The people who threw in the towel on their nutrition plans. This is your chance to be the outlier and set yourself apart from the rest. I know each and every one of you are capable of suceeding, and I will be here for you every step of the way – well, 6 feet away of course 🙂

Please feel free to respond here or call me if you have any questions or concerns. Our virtuals sessions are also a great option if you still do not feel comfortable coming in to the studio. You may also contact Cam if you have fallen off the schedule and would like to come back, whether that be in the studio or virtually.