Armed with a rag and a bucket full of sanitizer and water, Santa Fe city employee Jennifer Bransford has become a soldier in the battle against the coronavirus.
A fitness recreation coordinator at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center for the past year and a half, Bransford now represents the first line of defense in the city’s fight to contain the potentially lethal disease, which Gov. Michelle Lujan Grishman announced Wednesday had so far infected six New Mexicans. The count now includes two Santa Fe County women — one in her 50s, the other in her 60s.
“We’re definitely adapting to the circumstances,” Bransford said this week while taking a break from wiping down equipment in the busy fitness center for the umpteenth time.
“We’re trying to do our best to sanitize and to keep everybody safe,” she said. “We try to wipe any piece of equipment that is in contact with the body, whether it’s a head, back, shoulders, even feet. We’re actually doing foot pedals and stuff like that — anything that is touching hands.”
The beefed-up effort to clean, disinfect and kill germs isn’t limited to the Chavez Center.
In addition to installing 120 hand-sanitizing stations at various government buildings, the city of Santa Fe implemented a “flu protocol” at its two operating recreation centers (the Salvador Perez Recreation Complex has been closed since last year for remodeling), as well as on city buses and at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center.
Kyle Mason, the city’s emergency management director, said Monday the flu protocol is designed to “make sure that those high-activity areas are wiped down, I believe, on an hourly basis.”
John Muñoz, parks and recreation director, said the protocol was implemented during flu season “some weeks ago” and continued as the novel coronavirus spread worldwide.
The protocol basically means increased hours for custodial support and providing additional cleaning and disinfection in high-volume public spaces, he said.
“Increased focused on high-touch points — touch points like doorknobs, door handles, railings, things that are touched more frequently,” Muñoz said. “Obviously, there’s a lot of people in our rec centers, and we want them to enjoy their experience here. We want them to come back. We want to keep our employees healthy and happy, so we doubled up on our supplies. We doubled up on the amount of times we touch these high-touch point areas when we work on them.”
Liz Roybal, who oversees the Fort Marcy Recreation Complex, said her staff is disinfecting everything from TV remote controls and workout machines to lockers, “inside and out.”
“We’ve really stepped it up,” she said.
At the Chavez Center, Bransford and the center’s custodial staff, sometimes overlooked or underappreciated by patrons, are gaining a newfound respect.
“The work that they do is very, very important, and they work hard,” Muñoz said. “I know with the focus on the novel coronavirus, I’m sure people will appreciate their work even more. I know I do.”
Granted, not everybody thinks the cleanliness of the Chavez Center is anything to brag about, but some of the more than 2,000 people who use the sprawling facility daily are taking notice.
“I have had positive feedback from the patrons and constituents saying, ‘Hey, thanks. We really appreciate you guys doing the extra work. It’s noticeable,’ ” said Jerry Schilling, recreation center manager.
Schilling said the three building supervisors and four custodians face an uphill challenge cleaning a 177,000-square-foot facility, but he tells patrons the Chavez Center “is probably cleaner than their own homes because we have staff clean this building from top to bottom every single day and every single hour that we’re open.”
“They’re where the rubber meets the road,” he said, adding that patrons are also expected to do their share by cleaning up after themselves — a point echoed by Bransford.
“There’s no way that we can run through this a trillion times,” she said, pointing to the fitness equipment. “There’s not. Somebody else is going to touch it right after we clean it, so we need everybody to do their part.”
But Bransford, who now wears gloves for all cleaning — as opposed to the past, when she only used them when dealing with chemicals — said she hopes people will continue to use the city recreation centers.
“I personally want people to not be afraid of dying,” she said. “I just wish people would still continue to come and enjoy life, enjoy this beautiful facility that we have. Just keep the economy going. Yeah, we do have to take precautionary measures. Of course we do. I get it.
“Everybody needs to wash their hands. If you’re sick, stay home. We have to do our measures, but we still have to continue to live. We have to give faith to God.”
While many people have faith in God, not everybody has faith in the containment of a disease that can kill.
Roybal, the Fort Marcy manager, said the number of patrons there was down by about 50 percent Thursday.