COVID-19, influenza, pneumonia — every year, hundreds of thousands of people around the world die from viruses, including tens of thousands within the United States. It doesn't matter whether the virus is one that's trending in the news or one that's so familiar it's literally become seasonal. They all have the potential to be lethal.

We get comfortable with the threat of viruses because in most cases, they don't seem that bad. The common cold is caused by a virus, after all. Many of us don't know someone who has died as a direct result of a virus. So when flu season rolls around or a new disease like the one caused by COVID-19 comes onto the scene, we keep on doing business as usual.

It can be hard, in fact, for a martial arts business to take preemptive measures. We don't want to accuse our students or their parents of being sick in our studios — they might be offended. We don't want to send our team members home if they're sick — we need them to teach. Shoot, we work when we're sick! If we don't, the work won't get done. However, you need to know when to put your foot down and ask someone to leave for the health and safety of your school.

Equally important is dealing with the virus threat that lingers in your school even after the person carrying it has left. Let's be honest: We've all been tempted to slack on cleaning on days when our studios didn't get "that dirty." Have you ever seen a team member mop the whole floor without once dumping the mop water, cleaning the mop bucket and refilling it with fresh water and cleaner? All the person is doing is pushing dirty water around on your mat. The disinfecting properties of the cleaner are completely gone before the mat is covered.

Some viruses can live for more than a week on surfaces. That's everything in your studio, not just your mat: door handles, chairs, counters, water fountains, bathroom fixtures and more all have germs and viruses living on them.

Other than the obvious threat of infection, a virus poses a risk to your school in a couple of ways.

First, if a virus spreads through your school, your students can claim that you made them sick. That means you have a liability claim, and you cannot buy insurance to cover this. Communicable disease is specifically excluded from insurance. The exclusion leaves you to defend yourself.

Second, if a virus spreads in your school and students stop coming to class, your income dries up. Again, you cannot insure against this lost income. In some cases, you can buy insurance that's limited to state governments closing your school after an outbreak in your school. Bear in mind that the coverage does nothing if students stop coming because of a community outbreak outside your studio.

Thinking through a plan and sticking to that plan are the keys to protecting yourself. The Centers for Disease Control released some great educational material on how to prevent virus spread. This information, combined with steps like excluding people with symptoms and routine documented cleanings will give you protection.

The recommendations from the CDC include handwashing (specific instructions are available on the CDC's site), covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing, disposing of tissues immediately and avoiding touching your face. This is all common sense we've heard before, right? Even so, humans keep spreading viruses, so we know we aren't all following these recommendations.

Why are we thinking about this now? Whether COVID-19 becomes a pandemic or not, we need to be healthy. Our studios teach families how to live a healthy life. In America, our childhood-obesity rate is 15 percent. Our adult heart disease rate 48.5 percent. Martial arts training is an invitation to change our lives and hopefully avoid becoming one of these statistics. This healthy lifestyle also extends to protection against viruses and chronic diseases.

To contact Beth A. Block, send an email to or call (800) 225-0863.

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